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" There about the beach he wandered, nourishing a youth sublime, 
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of time." 








To place before the youthful student a compact and 
concise compendium of the leading and most uni- 
versally important branches of Science has been 
my principal object in the preparation of this 
little volume. 

To adapt the work to the capacity of all, I have 
endeavoured to divest the different subjects treated 
in it of hard and dry technicalities, and to clothe 
them in the more attractive garb of fairy tales a 
task by no means easy. 

That I have been obliged, in the composition of 
the work, to consult a crowd of authorities, need 
hardly be stated, nor will any more formal enume- 
ration or systematic acknowledgment be expected. 

In the fanciful sketches which illustrate these 
pages, my friend Mr. C. H. Bennett has most fully 
entered into the spirit in which I conceived the 

I have to tender my sincere thanks to my 

esteemed friend Dr. G. L. Strauss, who came to my 
aid, at a time when severe indisposition seemed to 
threaten that many of these Fairy Tales of Science 
should remain untold. 

J. C. B. 



ge of ftosters. 

The griffins and dragons of fairy mythology The monsters 
revealed by science The ancient ocean and its inhabitants 
The Cetiosaurus The Plesiosaurus Aspect of the 
country of the Dinosaurians Crocodiles Turtles The 
Hylaeosaurus and Megalosaurus A fearful conflict An 
uncultivated garden No trace of man The Iguanodon, 
a huge herbivorous monster The Pterodactyle, a flying 
reptile Wealden beds The stone book . . pp. 1 14 


The fairy messenger Thales and the Amber Spirit Ancient 
explanation of lightning and meteors Man's devices for 
enslaving the spirit Globe of sulphur Conductors and 
non-conductors Electrical machines The Leyden jar 
How to draw the spirit from the clouds The voltaic pile 
Deflections of the magnetic needle The spirit employed 
as a courier The electric telegraph explained Systems 
of Wheatstone, Morse, Bain, and Bakewell Telegraphic 
wires Submarine telegraphs France and England 
brought within a speaking distance of each other Irish 
cable Atlantic cable The spirit taught to measure time 
Bain's electric clock The electrotype The spirit's ver- 
satility pp. 1528 


&f)E JFour (Slemente. 

The ancient doctrine of the four elements Decomposition of 
wood Universality of the mighty elements Health and 
disease The true elementary bodies A burning candle- 
Fire the result of chemical action The destroying element 
Chemical compounds Composition of combustible 
bodies Air the great supporter of life Analysis of air 
Uniformity of composition Immensity of the atmosphere 
Properties of carbonic acid Ammonia Watery vapour 
Compounds of nitrogen and oxygen Carbonic oxide- 
Water in the liquid, solid, and aeriform states Analysis 
and synthesis Decomposition of water by potassium 
Wonderful revelations Water a product of combustion 
Synthesis of water Earth an indefinite substance The 
sixty- three elements of the chemist Principal ingredients 
of earth Silica, alumina, and lime Salt, pyrites, and 
fluorspar Metals and metalloids Composition of plants 
and animals The marvels of chemistry True interpreta- 
tion of the ancient dogma pp. 29 51 

Wgt ILtfe of an atom. 

The strange vicissitudes of particles of matter A talking 
atom His relatives His existence as a rock-forming 
atom First glimpse of the outer world Sets out on his 
travels Launched into the ocean A roving life The 
coral polype Terrestrial mutations The atom liberated by 
volcanic agency The joys of an aerial atom Plants of 
the carboniferous period The atom again a captive 
Coal Modern career of the atom His philosophical 
speculations pp. 53_ 64 

& SLittU Bit 

The nature of matter Illustrations of its divisibility The 
ultimate particles of a body never in actual contact 


Porosity of gold Opinions of Newton and Herschel 
Hidden truths Relative weights of the ultimate particles 
John Dalton The atomic theory of chemistry 
Celestial atoms pp. 65 74 

JHotoertt glrijentg. 

The philosopher's stone Ancient and modern alchemy The 
mysterious unknown Liebig's remarks on the true phi- 
losopher's stone The laboratory of the modern alchemist 
Aluminium Ultramarine The wonders that may yet 
be performed by the alchemist Transmutation Like and 
unlike Charcoal, graphite and diamond Different forms 
assumed by sulphur Amorphous phosphorus Ozone 
Modern alchemists true descendants of the old gold-seekers 

pp. 7587 

Cfje fHagfc of tfje Stm&eattt. 

The influence of the sunbeam Theories that have been ad- 
vanced to explain the nature of light Velocity of light 
Decomposition of the sunbeam The prismatic spectrum. 
Influence of light over the animal and vegetable king- 
doms The Proteus anguinus Distribution of animals in 
the ocean Plants grown in the dark Heat Dispersion 
of the heat-rays Effects of heat Actinism Blackening 
of horn silver Inorganic bodies sleep during the night 
Germination of seeds Photography . . . pp.89 102 

(ges are Setter tfjan tie. 

The structure of the human eye Herschel's remarks on this 
wonderful organ Why two eyes are better than one 
An invisible pair of compasses Two eyes required to 
obtain a true conception of solidity The stereoscope 
Double vision Single vision pp. 103 111 


The belle of the sea Her submarine home A deep dive- 
Unfamiliar objects The mermaid's garden Her subjects 
The black goby Emissaries from the Court of Oberon 
An expert well- sinker Animated umbrellas The lamps 
of the sea The great crab family The porcelain crab, 
the spider, and the hermit Sea-slugs Living stars The 
sea-urchin Serpulse and acorn-shells The mermaid and 
the naturalist .......... pp. 113 127 

Inhnatrti JJFIofoers. 

The flowers of the sea Smooth anemone Thick-horned 
anemone Living daisies Plumose anemone Voracity 
of these animal flowers Their curious structure The 
madrepore described by Gosse An amusing anecdote 
The living flowers of tropical seas The aquarium 

pp. 129139 

A meeting of aged insects An unpleasant scene A sensible 
proposition The cabbage butterfly Swammerdam's re- 
marks on the internal structure of a caterpillar The tiger- 
moth The dragon-fly's narrative The gnat Reaumur's 
observations The case- fly The ichneumon- fly 

pp. 141153 

The witches' cauldron and the tea-kettle Thermometers 
Boiling and freezing points Latent heat The genii of the 
kettle Ebullition Conduction and convection Hot por- 
ridge Oceanic currents Pressure of the atmosphere 
The spheroidal state Water frozen in a red-hot vessel 
Steam springs The fiery ordeal The Geysers of Iceland 
Sir George Mackenzie's description of the G rea t Geyser 
Bunsen's experiments Artificial Geysers . pp. 155 174 


The Solar System Earth Moon Jupiter Saturn Uranus 

Neptune Mercury Venus Mars Vesta, Pallas, and 
other planetoids Eelative magnitudes and distances of 
the principal members of the solar system The Sun His 
diameter, bulk, and mass His distance from the Earth 
His apparent motion The twelve signs of the Zodiac 
The solar rays Planets habitable and inhabited Moon 
and planetoids not inhabited Fixed stars Constellations 

Coma Berenices Catalogues of stars Classification of 
stars into magnitudes Number of stars Milky Way 
Nebulae Distance of stars Light of Sirius Periodical 
or variable stars Temporary stars Dark bodies in the 
heavens Double and multiple stars Colour of stars 
Complementary colours in double stars . pp.175 196 

& &sle af a Comet. 

Family and pedigree The comet protests against M. Babi- 
net's remarks anent his kindred Number of comets 
Bulk Nucleus Head Coma Tail or brush Tenuity 
of comets Disturbing influence of planets and planetoids 
upon the orbitsof comets Chance of a collision Cometary 
matter not luminous Forms of comets and their tails 
Length of tail Comets with more than one tail Eccen- 
tricity of motion Parabolic and hyperbolic orbits Uses 
of comets -Absurd and superstitious notions respecting 
cometary influences Comet of 1556 expected in 1860 
Case of doubtful identity Cometary influence on seasons 
disproved Comets with fixed periods Halley's Comet 
of 1680 Comets of Olbers, Encke, Biela, Faye, De Vico, 
Brorsen, d' Arrest Winneke and Neslhuber versus Donati 

Supposed period and distance from sun of comet of 1858 

pp. 197213 


Cfje Enbisi&le 

The revelations of the microscope Single and compound 
microscopes A drop of water Minute creatures The 
globe animalcule The wheel animalcule Microscopic 
plants Diatoms -Formation of rocky strata Beautiful 
forms Bed of earth composed of living infusoria The 
marls of Virginia Chalk Microscopic fungi Eggs of 
insects Scales of a butterfly's wing Insect anatomy 
Pollen Fissures and cavities in gems . . pp. 215 229 

A fanciful tree Bread-fruit Cabbage-palm Cow- tree The 
papyrus and fan-palm Pashiuba palm The mangrove 
Wonderful cane Australian trees The Banyan Sensi- 
tive plants The traveller and the moss . pp. 231 242 

ffliobin^ 3Lants, 

Glaciers Regions of eternal snow- The Neve Rivers of ice 
Moraines Movement of the glacier A moving hut 
Lost knapsack- Mysterious noises Theories of glacier 
motion Saussure Observations of Professor James 
Forbes Viscous theory Tyndall's experiments The 
plasticity of ice Fracture and regelation Ancient glaciers 
Time slides pp. 243253 

2Hje nomes. 

The home of the gnomes Wondrous architecture of the 
stalactite caverns Science and superstition The Grotto 
of Antiparos Petrifying springs Tabreez marble A 
busy scene The guardian of the jewels The Koh-i-noor 
Aluminous and silicious gems The keeper of the metals 


The treasures of the earth Gold, silver, and iron The 
gnome of the coal-mines Use of coal Varieties of coal 

pp. 255 276 

Division of the universe between Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto 

Pluto's share Cerberus The river Styx Charon the 
.ferryman The Acheron and the other rivers of the In- 
fernum Powers of Lethe Migration of souls Pluto and 
his court Plutus The fatal sisters The three judges 
The furies Tartarus, and its inhabitants Elysian fields 
Pluto in search of a wife Proserpine Ceres Interven- 
tion of Jupiter Danger of eating pomegranate seeds 
A new species of owl Geological view of Pluto's kingdom 

The realm of fire How the earth and the other 
planets were formed .Internal condition of the earth 
The earth's crust Density of the crust and interior of the 
earth Cordier's thermometrical theory of volcanoes and 
earthquakes Volcanoes Craters of eruption and eleva- 
tion Mount Vesuvius Etna Jorullo Matters thrown 
out from volcanic craters Mud volcanoes Aqueous lava 

Earthquakes Vertical, horizontal, and circular move- 
.ments Earthquake of 1755 Elevation and subsidence of 

land Submarine eruptions Sabrina Island Graham 
Island Extinct volcanoes ...... pp. 277 307 

VLfy W,oriDziM 2Lamp. 

The story of Aladdin The lamp of science Genii of the 
lamp Steam Miracles wrought by steam Steam-power 

The Leviathan Construction Dimensions Mode of 
propulsion Passenger-arrangements Britannia Tubular 
Bridge Stephenson An impossible task The strength 
of a beam Monster rams Lifting the tubes Aerial 
galleries An emblem explained Conclusion 

pp. 309338 


" Mighty pre- Adamites that walked the earth 
Of which ours is the wreck." BYRON. 


a time if 
we are to 
believe our 
Fairy books 
a terrible 
race of mon- 
sters devas- 
tated this 
fair earth. 
D ragons 
and Griffins 
roamed at 
large, and a 

passing visit from one of these rapacious creatures 
was held to be the greatest calamity that could befall 
a nation. All the King's horses and all the King's 
men were powerless in the presence of such a foe, 
and the bravest monarch stooped to purchase his 


own safety with the most humiliating concessions. 
The dragon was allowed to run riot over the face 
of the country ; to devour the flocks and herds at 
his pleasure ; and when sheep and oxen ceased to 
gratify him, scores of beautiful damsels were sacri- 
ficed to allay the cravings of his ravenous appe- 

Sometimes the fastidious monster would go so 
far as to order a princess for dinner, but he gene- 
rally had to pay dearly for his audacity. When the 
monarch had exhausted his stock of prayers, and 
the poor little maiden had almost cried out her 
eyes, some valiant knight-errant was certain to 
come forward and challenge the dragon to meet him 
in the field. A terrific encounter then took place, 
and strange to say, the knight invariably proved 
himself to be more than a match for the destroyer 
who had hitherto kept whole armies at bay. 

As instances of this wonderful triumph of Right 
over Might, we need only mention that celebrated 
duel in which the Dragon of Wantley was forced 
to succumb to the prowess of Moore of Moore Hall ; 
and that still more famous combat in which the 
invincible St. George of England won an everlasting 

We have said that these monsters belonged to 
that mythical age known as " once upon a time ;" 
unfortunately we can find no trace of them in au- 
thentic history, and we are compelled to admit that 
they had their origin in the fanciful brains of those 


old story-tellers whose wondrous legends we delight 
to linger over. 

In more credulous times, however, these monsters 
of enchantment were religiously believed in, and no 
one doubted that they had their lairs in the dark 
and impenetrable forests, in the desolate mountain 
passes, and in those vast and gloomy caverns which 
are even now regarded with superstitious dread by 
the ignorant. 

At length the lamp of science was kindled, and its 
beneficent rays penetrated the darkest recesses of the 
earth ; roads were cut through the tangled woods, 
busy factories sprang up in the lonely glens, and 
curious man even ventured to pry into the secrets 
of those terrible caves. The monsters of romance 
were nowhere to be found. Triumphant science 
had banished them from the realms of fact, with 
the same pitiless severity that the xincompromising 
St. Patrick had previously displayed towards the 
poisonous reptiles of Ireland. 

The poor ill-used Dragon has now no place to 
lay his scaly head, the Griffin has become a denless 
wanderer, and the Fiery Serpent has been forced to 
emigrate to a more genial clime ! 

Fortunately truth is stranger than fiction ; the 
revelations of modern science transcend the wildest 
dreams of the old poets ; and in exchange for a few 
shadowy griffins and dragons, we are presented with 
a whole host of monsters, real and tangible 
monsters too, who in the early days of the world's 
B 2 


history were the monarchs of all they surveyed, 
and had no troublesome Seven Champions to dis- 
pute their sway. 

We are on the shores of the Ancient Ocean. 
We search in vain for any sign of Man's handiwork ; 
no iron steam-ship, no vessel of war, no rude canoe 
even, has yet been launched upon its bosom, though 
the tides ebb and flow, and the waves chant their 
eternal hymn, according to those immutable laws 
which the Creator ordained at the beginning. 

The ocean teems with life, but it contains no 
single creature which has its exact likeness in 
modern seas. Its fishes belong for the most part 
to the great Shark family, but their forms are 
much more uncouth than those of their savage de- 


scendants. No whales, dolphins, nor porpoises are 
to be found in these waters, their places being filled 
up by strange marine reptiles, which equal them in 
bulk, and greatly surpass them in voraciousness. 

Yonder is one of these old monsters of the deep : * 
as it rests there with its broad back glistening in 
the sun, it might easily be mistaken for some rocky 
islet but see, it moves ! Now it lashes the water 
with its enormous tail, creating quite a whirlpool 
in its neighbourhood now it raises its huge head, 
and displays a row of teeth at which the bravest 
might shudder and now it darts away from the 
shore, leaving a wide track of foam on the dark 
blue waters. 

* The Cetiosaurus, or Whale-like Lizard. 


Another member of the Saurian or Lizard race 
is disporting himself in a little bay close by. The 
imagination of man never called up a shape so 
weird and fantastic as this, in which we see com- 
bined, a fish-like body, a long serpentine neck, and 
the tapering tail of a lizard.* As he paddles 
through the water with his neck arched over his 
back in a graceful curve, he looks a very handsome 
fellow, in spite of the somewhat evil expression of 
i his countenance ; but he is anything but handsome, 
if we judge him by the adage which restricts the 
use of that epithet to handsome doers. Look at 
him now, how eagerly he pounces upon every living 
thing that comes within the range of his pliant 
neck, how cruelly he crushes the bones of his 
victims, and how greedily he swallows them ! We 
never witnessed such unhandsome conduct in a 
monster before. Leaving him at his disgusting 
banquet, let us now penetrate into the interior of 
the old continent, where we shall encounter some 
terrestrial reptiles of a very formidable character, f 
We are in the heart of a strange wild country. 
At our feet runs a mighty river, whose tortuous 
course we can trace far away on the distant land- 
scape. The scenery around us is grandly pictu- 
resque, being diversified by high mountains with 
harsh and rugged outlines, yawning chasms, swampy 
plains, and thick forests. Here a broad stream 

* The Plesiosaurus. 
f The Dinosaurians, or fearfully great Lizards. 


dashes impetuously through a narrow glen, and 
there a placid lake glistens like polished silver. 
Huge masses of rock arise in a thousand fantastic 
forms on one side, while on the other vast desert 
tracts, monotonously level, spread out as far as the 
eye can reach. 

The general aspect of the country is utterly un- 
like that of any modern land, and we gaze on the 
savage panorama before us with mingled feelings 
of admiration and awe. We are surrounded by 
wonders. The vegetation which fringes the banks 
of the river is strangely unfamiliar. Some of the 
trees remind us of the palms and arborescent ferns 
of the Tropics, and others seem to be allied to the 
cypress and juniper, but they all belong to un- 
known species. 

The air, which is hot and oppressive, swarms 
with insects ; curious flies and beetles hum around 
us, and every now and then a huge dragon-fly darts 
past like a meteor. 

Looking towards the river, other more striking 
forms of animal life meet our gaze. Hundreds of 
gigantic crocodiles are swimming in the stream and 
lying on the muddy shore ; horrible creatures are 
they, with their thick coats of mail and sharp elon- 
gated muzzles, and we cannot watch their ungainly 
movements without experiencing an involuntary 
sensation of disgust. 

On the oozy banks of the river another type of 
reptilian life is represented by a shoal of fresh- 

. '# 


water Turtles which we see crawling along at a 
slow and steady pace. Now one of these sluggish 
fellows stops to pick up some dainty morsel (a 
mussel, perhaps, a snail, or a crocodile's egg), but 
the exertion appears to cost him no small annoy- 
ance, and now he draws in his head and prepares 
for a nap. As he has in all probability a hundred 
years yet to live, he can aiford to devote an hour or 
two to digestion. 

' But hark ! What noise was that ? Surely that 
harsh discordant roar must have proceeded from 
the deep throat of some monster concealed in yon- 
der forest. The Crocodiles seem to understand it 
perfectly, for see, they are making for the opposite 
bank with most undignified speed. There it is 
again, still louder than before ! Now a crashing 
among the trees, followed by a wild unearthly 

Look at that terrible form which has just emerged 
from the thicket. It rushes towards us, trampling 
down the tall shrubs that impede its progress as 
though they were but so many blades of grass. 
Now it stops as if exhausted, and turns its huge 
head in the direction of the forest. 

How shall we describe this monster of the old 
world, which is so unlike any modern inhabitant of 
the woods ? Its body, which is at least twenty feet 
long, is upheld by legs of proportional size, and a 
massive tail, which drags upon the ground and 
forms a fifth pillar of support. Its head is hideously 


ugly, its immense jaws and flat forehead recalling 
the features of those grim monsters which figure in 
our story-books. Its dragon-like appearance is still 
further increased by a ridge of large triangular 
bones or spines which extends along its back.* We 
should not be at all surprised were we to see streams 
of fire issuing from the mouth of this creature, and 
we look towards the palm-forest half expecting 
a St. George to ride forth on his milk-white 

See ! some magic power causes the trees to bend 
and fall the dragon-slayer is approaching ! Gra- 
cious powers ! It is not St. George, but another 
Dragon nearly double the size of the first. He 
proclaims his arrival by a loud roar of defiance, 
which is unanswered save by the echoes of the sur- 
rounding hills. The first monster tries to conceal 
himself behind a clump of trees and preserves a 
discreet silence, being evidently no match for his 
formidable challenger. 

The new comer is certainly a very sinister-look- 
ing beast. His magnitude is perfectly astounding. 
From the muzzle to the tip of his tail he seems to 
measure about forty feet, and his legs are at least 
two yards long. His feet are furnished with sharp 
claws for tearing the flesh from the bones of his 
victims, and his teeth are fearful instruments of 
destruction, each tooth being curved, and pointed 

* The Hylaeosaurus, or Wealden Lizard. 


like a sabre, with jagged saw-like edges.* His 
disposition is decidedly unamiable. Look at him. 
now how furiously he tears up the earth, and how 
savagely he looks about him for some trace of his 
lost prey ! Now he catches a glimpse of the crested 
monster among the trees, and dashes towards him 
with a terrific yell of delight. 

Alas ! there is no escape for you, unfortunate 
Dragon ! The great monster can outstrip you in 
the chase, and you may as well show a bold front. 

Now they meet in the hollow with a fearful 
crash. The lesser monster is determined to sell his 
life dearly, and with the aid of the spines along his 
back he contrives to inflict some severe wounds 
upon the huge body of his opponent. 

What a fearful conflict ! How they snort and 
roar ! Now they roll over among the ferns, linked 
together in a terrible embrace. The hero of the 
crest is the first to rise he makes off towards the 
forest, and may yet escape. Alas ! he falls ex- 
hausted, and the great monster is on his track. 
His temper does not seem to be improved by his 
wounds how angrily he tosses his head, and how 
fiercely he gnashes his sabre-like teeth. He ap- 
proaches his fallen enemy. Now he jumps upon 
him with a crushing force, and now his enormous 
jaws close upon the neck of his victim, who expires 
with a shriek of pain. 

* The Megalosaurus, or Great Lizard. 


We can gaze no longer at this awful scene. The 
battle was sufficiently exciting to absorb our at- 
tention, but we have no desire to see how the great 
monster disposes of the body of his valiant foe. Let 
us therefore leave the river bank, and visit another 
portion of the old continent. 

We stand in a lovely valley surrounded on all 
sides by high mountains, whose slopes are covered 
with luxuriant vegetation. A crystal stream mean- 
ders through the fertile plains, and runs into a fairy- 
like lake, upon whose margin there are little 
groups of arborescent ferns and palms. The whole 
valley has the appearance of a rich garden, and 
we regard its varied beauties with rapturous admi- 

As we look around we fail to discover any trace 
of man no temple, palace, nor hut bears witness 
to the existence of a being capable of appreciating 
the charms of which nature has been so prodigal. 
We are profound egotists, and think that everything 
beautiful must have been created for our especial 
advantage. Here, however, trees spring up though 
there be no woodman to hew them down, fruits 
ripen though there be none to gather them, and 
the stream flows though there be no mill to set in 
motion ; in fact, the age of man has not yet dawned 
upon the earth. 

We have already seen some of the weird inha- 
bitants of the Old World ; this valley is the favou- 
rite haunt of another and a still more remarkable 


creature, who loves the shelter which these trees 

Yonder is one of these extraordinary monsters. 
He has just emerged from the forest, and is march- 
ing towards the lake slowly and majestically, a re- 
gular moving mountain ! His legs are like trunks of 
trees, and his body, which rivals that of the elephant 
in bulk, is covered with scales. In length and height 
he equals the great lizard we have already described, 
but his whole appearance is far less awe-inspiring. 
There is a good-humoured expression in his face, 
and his teeth are not nearly so formidable as those 
of his predacious neighbour, being blunt and short, 
and evidently fitted for the mastication of vegetable 

Look ! he is quietly grazing on those luxuriant 
ferns which lie in his path. Now the foliage of a 
tall palm-like tree seems to offer a tempting mouth- 
ful, but it is beyond his reach : there are more 
ways than one of procuring a meal see, the huge 
vegetarian places his fore-paws against the stem of 
the tree and coolly pushes it down. Having stript 
the fallen stem of its sword-like leaves, he plunges 
in the lake, and flounders about in the water as 
though the bath were his greatest source of enjoy- 
ment. This huge herbivorous monster would pro- 
bably be no match for the cruel creature whom we 
left devouring his enemy by the river, as all its 

* The Tguanodon, so named from its teeth, which resemble 
those of a recent lizard called the Iguana. 


actions prove it to be a harmless and peaceably dis- 
posed animal. 

Look at that strange bird overhead ! Its body 
does not appear to be larger than that of a pigeon 
but what enormous wings it is provided with ! 
Now it descends. Is it a bird or a large bat 1 Its 
wings seem to be formed of leather, and its body 
has anything but a bird-like form. See ! it alights, 
and runs upon the ground with considerable speed 
now it jumps into the lake, and swims about the 
surface as if water were its natural element. Again 
it rises in the air, directing its course towards the 
spot where we are standing, and now it perches upon 
a fragment of rock close to us. 

What an extraordinary creature j it is neither 
bird nor bat, but a winged reptile ! Its head, 
which is small and bird-like and supported on a 
long slender neck, is provided with elongated jaws, 
in which are set some fifty or sixty sharp little 
teeth. Its wing consists of folds of skin, sustained 
by the outer finger enormously lengthened ; the 
other fingers being short and armed with powerful 
claws. Its body is covered with scales instead of 
feathers, and in addition to this strange mixture of 
bird-like and reptilian features, the creature is 
provided with the long stiff tail of a mammal.* 

Of all the inhabitants of this country of marvels, 
the Flying reptile is by far the strangest ; and as we 

* The Pterodactyle, or Wing-fingered Lizard. 



gaze upon its weird form, we caunot help comparing 
it with, one of those horrible and grotesque imps 
which are described so minutely in monkish 

Again the scene changes the country of the 
monster fades away, and we are once more in our 
cosy study, surrounded by our favourite volumes. 

Perhaps the curious reader would like to know 
where the marvellous country is situated, but as we 
do not intend to tack a long scientific essay upon our 
fairy-tale, he must be content with a very few words 
of explanation. 

All that remains of the monsters' country is a 
large tract of land or delta which was formed ages 
and ages ago at the mouth of a mighty river.* The 
continent through which this river flowed now 
forms a large portion of the bed of the Atlantic. 

How can we know anything about this submerged 
country 1 how can we come to any conclusion re- 
specting the kind of creatures which lived and died 
there 1 These questions will probably occur to the 
reader, and give rise to certain doubts as to the cre- 
dibility of our narrative. 

The monsters have been their own historians. 

They have described themselves in the gorgeously 


* The Wealden Beds, so called from their forming a district 
known as the Weald of Kent and Sussex. These strata, which 
were deposited at the mouth of a river rivalling the Mississippi 
in magnitude, occupy the whole area between the North and 
South Downs. 


illuminated volume called the Stone Book, every 
page of which is formed of the solid rock. The 
truth of the matter is simply this ; when the geo- 
logist came to examine the structure of the old 
river delta, he found embedded in the rocks, broken 
and water-worn bones, detached teeth, fresh-water 
shells, fragments of trees, and even the bodies of 
insects. With untiring industry and perseverance 
he classified these organic remains j he placed to- 
gether the gigantic bones, and reproduced the forms 
of those enormous creatures which are now repre- 
sented by our tiny frogs and lizards ; he examined 
every leaf and fir-cone, and found out the order of 
plants to which they belonged every relic he sub- 
mitted to a close scrutiny, and at length he was 
rewarded by a vision of the ancient continent and 
its inhabitants as they existed at that remote period 
which we can only vaguely describe as " once upon 
a time." 

Puck. ' ' I go, I go ; look, how I go, 

Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow." 

Midsummer NigTifs Dream. 

THAT merry wanderer of the night, Puck, who 
boasted that he could "put a girdle round about 
the earth in forty minutes," was a sluggard com- 
pared with the fairy messenger who now flies hither 
and thither at our bidding, with a velocity which 
might carry him round the globe several times in a 
single second. Four and twenty centuries have 
elapsed since Thales of Miletus evoked this nimble 
Spirit by rubbing a piece of yellow amber ; just as 
the heroes of Romance summoned genii, fairies, and 
hobgoblins, by the friction of rings and amulets. 
The Greek name for amber was electron, and thus 
our Spirit came to be called Electricity. 

The ancients were ignorant of the potency of this 
ethereal being; indeed, their knowledge was con- 
fined to the isolated fact that amber, when rubbed, 
acquired the property of attracting light bodies. 

The grander manifestations of the Amber Spirit's 
power received a religious interpretation ; thus, the 
forked flashes which sometimes darted through the 


sky were supposed to come from the hand of the 
mighty Thunderer, and those fiery meteors which 
now and then rested on the javelins of the Roman 
legionaries, were looked upon as omens of victory 
sent by the "War-god. 

It was left for modern philosophers to trace these 
great phenomena to the Amber Spirit, and to show 
that his presence may be detected, not only in the 
fossil gum which Thales imagined to be his favourite 
haunt, but in every particle of dust and every drop 
of water. 

Let us now describe the cunning means which 
man employed to enslave this wild Spirit. Two 
hundred years ago, the fragments of amber were 
laid aside, and a large globe of sulphur was set 
whirling on a vertical axis, whilst it was rubbed by 
the hand. By this machine the Spirit was dragged 
from his hiding place, and made to reveal some im- 
portant secrets. Flashes of light issued from this 
revolving globe, and balls of pith, feathers, and straw 
danced towards it as though endowed with life. 

Sixty years later, the discovery was made that 
all solid bodies may be divided into two great 
classes, namely, those which, when held in the 
hand and rubbed, set free the Amber Spirit ; and 
those which, under similar circumstances, fail to 
exhibit any attractive force. Amber, sulphur, and 
glass belong to the first class ; all the metals to the 
second. It was also found that certain bodies 
allowed the Spirit to pass along them with great 


celerity, while others completely obstructed his 

Towards the middle of the last century, cylinders, 
spheres, and plates of glass, were substituted for the 
cumbrous globe of sulphur, and with these new 
implements man began to forge the chains which 
were to bind the subtle Spirit. 

In the year 1746, an ingenious Dutchman actually 
managed to coax him into a glass bottle, coated 
within and without with metal,* but the Spirit soon 
escaped from his narrow prison by passing through 
the limbs and body of the experimentalist, who re- 
ceived such a violent shock that he was compelled 
to take to his bed. This incident, however, did 
not deter the philosopher from prosecuting his in- 
quiries, and his endeavours to construct a secure 
prison were eventually crowned with success. 

Six years after this, an American sage summoned 
the now docile Spirit from the clouds during a 
thunderstorm, by means of a boy's kite, and thus 
proved the identity of lightning and that force 
which for two thousand years was regarded as an. 
emanation peculiar to rubbed amber. 

The nineteenth century was heralded in by the 
announcement of a still greater fact. A learned 
Italian now found that he could dispense with all 
the old machinery of incantation, and evoke the 
Amber Spirit by the action of acids upon metals. 

* The Leyden Jar. 


He piled up alternate disks of zinc and copper, 
kept separate by the interposition of moistened 
pasteboard, and with this simple apparatus* he 
obtained absolute control over the movements of 
the Spirit. He compelled him to travel along 
metal wires of any length ; to force asunder the 
elementary atoms of water ; to bring to light sub- 
stances hitherto unknown, and to perform a hundred 
other feats equally wonderful. The Spirit was van- 
quished the lightning was chained and man 
reigned supreme. 

It had long been suspected that the magnet owed 
its peculiar properties to the Amber Spirit, but the 
occult relation that subsisted between them had 
never been detected. This mystery was now cleared 
up by a Danish philosopher. He caused the Spirit 
to travel along a wire from south to north, and 
beneath this wire he placed a compass-needle. The 
Spirit passed, and lo ! the magic needle moved, and 
assumed a position at right angles with the wire. 
It no longer pointed to the north, but obeyed the 
peremptory mandates of the potent Spirit. New 
facts were soon brought to light; thus it was shown 
that the Spirit could render iron magnetic. A 
copper wire was coiled round a bar of soft iron, and 
our Spirit was made to run along the wire ; the 
iron at once became a powerful magnet, and ex- 
hibited all the properties of the loadstone. 

* The Voltaic Pile. 


These discoveries enabled man to employ the Am- 
ber Spirit as a courier, a vocation for which he is 
eminently suited, as the speed at which he travels 
has been estimated at 288,000 miles in a second. 

Let us see how our messages may be con- 

In London we have a pile of zinc and copper 
disks, or what amounts to the same thing, an ar- 
rangement of metal plates and acids which we call 
a battery. We have only to connect the extremi- 
ties of this machine by means of a wire to set the 
Amber Spirit in motion, and he will continue to 
move as long as the connexion remains complete, 
but will stop the instant it is broken. His route is 
from the zinc to the copper through the acid solu- 
tion, and along the wire back again to the zinc. He 
will never leave the battery at one end unless he 
is quite satisfied that he can re-enter it at the other, 
but while there is nothing to obstruct his course he 
will continue to circulate through the arrangement 
without exhibiting the least sign of fatigue. 

Let the wire which connects the opposite ends ot 
the battery be long enough to reach to Edinburgh 
and back ; and at the northern capital let there be 
a mariner's compass placed so that the needle shall 
be directly below, and parallel to the wire. It is 
evident that with this simple apparatus we can com- 
pel our courier to travel to Scotland and back. 
Every time we connect the homeward wire with 
the zinc end of the battery, the Spirit will rush to 
C 2 


Edinburgh, and cause the magic needle stationed 
there to move. 

The deflections of this needle may be converted 
into intelligible signs. They can be made to spell 
words ; thus, one movement may stand for a ; two 
for b ; three for c, and so on to the end of the al- 

We have said that our courier will refuse to leave 
the battery unless he be provided with a return 
ticket, or in other words, unless he can secure a safe 
passage home ; it does not follow, however, that his 
homeward path must be a wire, as by a peculiar 
arrangement we can force him to find his way from 
Edinburgh to London through the earth. 

We have supposed that only one kind of motion 
can be given to the magnetic needle, and that the 
Amber Spirit can only be made to travel in one 
direction, that is to say, from the copper end of the 
battery through the wire, and back again through 
the earth. If we connect the wire with the zinc 
end this direction is reversed, and, as a matter of 
course, the Spirit passes over the needle from north 
to south, instead of from south to north as before. 

This new direction is at once detected by the 
needle, and its north pole moves to the right, 
whereas it had previously moved to the left. We 
may take advantage of this double movement in 
simplifying our alphabet ; thus, one movement to 
the right may stand for a ; one to the left for b ; 
one right and one left for c, and so forth. 


We will not trouble our reader with any more 
explanations, but will confine ourselves to a con- 
sideration of some of the ingenious methods which 
have been devised to render the Amber Spirit a 
useful messenger. 

Some twenty years ago, a native of this country 
proposed a system of five wires, in connexion with 
as many needles, which indicated the letters of the 
alphabet at the rate of twenty a minute. Attention 
was to be drawn to the signals by the stroke of a 
bell, the hammer of which was moved by the mag- 
netic force which the Spirit communicated to a piece 
of iron ; thus the ear as well as the eye was to be 
addressed. He afterwards simplified this instru- 
ment by employing only two wires, and so increased 
its power that thirty letters could be indicated in a 

In America, another philosopher was simulta- 
neously engaged in perfecting a still more extra- 
ordinary contrivance, by means of which the Spirit 
was made to jot down an alphabet of dots and 
strokes which represented definite characters. The 
marks were written on a strip of chemically pre- 
pared paper, which was made to pass under a fine 
steel point. f 

The Spirit had no sooner been taught to write, 
than man set about teaching him the art of print- 
ing. Behold him now, a master of the art, printing 

* Wheatstone's Telegraphs, 
f- Morse's Telegraph. 


messages letter by letter, in the ordinary Roman 
characters, under the direction of an operator sta- 
tioned at a distant city !* 

The Spirit's education was not yet considered to be 
complete he had to acquire another accomplish- 
ment. He could communicate intelligence by 
means of moving needles and revolving dials, by 
written dots and printed characters, but he could 
not yet imitate the handwriting of the individual 
who forwarded the message. An ingenious gen- 
tleman now took him in hand, and soon made 
him an expert copyist. We can now write a let- 
ter, have it copied at a remote town in a minute 
or less, and receive a reply in our correspondent's 
handwriting, almost as soon as the ink is dry 
with which it was penned !t 

The philosopher Thales wondered to see certain 
minute bodies fly towards a piece of amber ; but 
how great would have been his astonishment had 
some superior intelligence informed him that the 
invisible being which moved the particles would 
one day be taught to trace figures upon paper 
exactly like those just written by some one far 
away ! We will not attempt to explain the action 
of the Spirit's magic copying-press, as it would lead 
us too far into the dark domain of chemistry. 

A hundred systems of communication might be 
enumerated in addition to those we have noticed, 

* Bain's Printing Telegraph, 
t Bakewell's Copying Telegraph. 


so great has been the intellectual activity of the last 
twenty years. 

In England, America, and many continental 
countries, iron wires, plated with zinc to prevent 
rusting, form the roads along which our ethereal 
courier travels. These wires are supported by 
wooden posts, erected some sixty yards apart on 
every railway ; they are not permitted to touch the 
wood, but are passed through short tubes of porce- 
lain attached to the posts. Were we to omit these 
little tubes, the Spirit would shirk his duty, and 
would travel no further than the first post, down 
which he would pass to the earth. 

These aerial roads are sometimes rendered impass- 
able by fogs, snow-storms, and heavy rains ; they 
are, moreover, seriously affected by Amber Spirit 
himself when he takes the form of Lightning. 
During a thunderstorm everything goes wrong, and 
the Spirit having escaped from his thraldom, sets 
man at defiance. He takes possession of the wires 
and plays a hundred antics. The signal bells ring 
without ceasing ; the needles vibrate to and fro, or 
remain for hours deflected to one side ; while the 
printing machines strike off unmeaning rows of 
dots and lines, or long sentences of an unknown 

In Prussia, Saxony, and Austria, copper wires, 
covered with gutta percha, and buried at some little 
depth in the ground, are employed as a means of 
communication. These subterranean wires are not 


subject to the influence of thunderstorms, but in 
other respects they are more troublesome than 
those suspended in mid air. The buried wires are 
greatly affected by the earth's magnetism and other 
disturbing influences ; moreover, trenches have to 
be dug for their reception, and they are with diffi- 
culty reached when deranged. Thus we see that 
each kind of road has its peculiar advantages and 

As gutta percha effectually cuts off all communi- 
cation between a wire and surrounding conductors, 
we make use of this marvellous substance to enclose 
the wires which convey our Spirit through the sea. 

The practicability of these submarine roads was 
demonstrated in 1849, when a trial was made with 
two miles of covered wire laid in water. Soon after 
this a cable was constructed, which enclosed four 
copper wires covered with gutta percha ; and by 
means of this cable France and England were 
brought within a speaking distance of each other. 

The Amber Spirit soon gave proofs of his ability 
as a continental messenger, and on the 14th of 
November, 1851, our great morning journal pub- 
lished a despatch from Paris, dated seven o'clock 
the preceding evening ! 

Another cable was now stretched across the Irish 
Sea, by means of which England was able to ex- 
change civilities with her sister isle. Others fol- 
lowed, and man, emboldened by their success, now 
began to think of despatching his obedient courier 


across the Ocean. Europe was covered with a net- 
work of wires, and so was America to unite these 
two great systems of communication would be a 
feat unparalleled in the annals of Science. 

This wondrous feat has at last been accomplished, 
and the two great Continents are now connected by 
a cable which lies at the bottom of the Atlantic. 
At Man's bidding the Amber Spirit speeds along 
this tremendous cable, and having registered a single 
letter at its further end, finds his way back to the 
battery through the pathless deep. Again and 
again he makes this extraordinary circuit, until 
every letter in his despatch has been registered ; so 
that, in spelling a word of one syllable, he has to 
perform a series of journeys which together far 
exceed the length of Puck's famous girdle. 

The Amber Spirit has had other duties imposed 
upon him besides those of a courier. 

He has been taught to measure time with great 
accuracy, an accomplishment which scarcely seems 
to harmonize with his astonishing fleetness. Measur- 
ing time must be a tedious occupation to one accus- 
tomed to annihilate it ; nevertheless, clocks are moved 
by our versatile Spirit, which have neither weights 
nor springs, and which will go for ever without 

We have seen how needles may be moved and 
bells rung; let us now consider how a pendulum 
may be set in motion. A battery is connected with 
a pendulum of peculiar construction, its bob being 


formed of a hollow brass reel on which a long 
copper wire covered with silk is coiled. In the 
clock-case, on either side are magnets, fixed so that 
their opposite poles enter the reel. 

Our readers have already been informed that a 
magnet freely supported, as in the mariner's com- 
pass, will move when the Amber Spirit passes over 
it. We will now confide to them another secret, 
namely, that a fixed magnet will give motion to a 
moveable wire along which the Spirit is passing. 
We shall now be able to explain the motion of our 
magic pendulum. 

As soon as the Spirit is sent along the coil of 
wire, the pendulum moves towards one side, being 
attracted by the one magnet and repelled by the 
other ; but by an ingenious contrivance the connex- 
ion between the coil and the battery is now broken, 
and the pendulum falls back by its own weight, 
again to be pulled aside by the magnets. The pen- 
dulum is thus made to oscillate ; and so long as 
there is power enough in the battery to force the 
Spirit through the coil, it will keep swinging, and 
give motion to a series of wheels acting upon each 
other which carry round the hands of the clock.* 

Other methods have been devised to render the 
Spirit an effective time-keeper, but the simple ar- 
rangement we have described may be taken as the 
type of them all. 

* Bain's Electric Clock. 


The great peculiarity of these wonderful clocks 
s, that they may be connected by wires, and made 
o keep exactly equal time, though separated from 
sach other by hundreds of miles. With a single 
>attery of sufficient power all the clocks in London 
night be kept going ; and what is still more extra- 
>rdinary, the London clocks might be made to 
egulate those of Edinburgh and Dublin, or even 
hose of Paris and New York ! 

The Spirit has been employed to move more 
>onderous things than pendulums. He has been 
aught to turn a lathe, work a pump, and propel a 
)oat through the water ; but as it is much more 
expensive to evoke the Spirit by means of metals 
ind acids, than to raise Steam from water, he is 
lot likely to supersede Steam as a mover of ma- 

In the useful Arts the Amber Spirit has long 
)een employed as a worker of metals, and with his 
issistance we now cast copper medallions, vases, 
ind statues, without making use of a furnace ; we 
jild or silver all kinds of utensils, and cover the 
nost delicate productions of nature with thin films 
>f metal. We will proceed to consider these mys- 
;erious operations. When the Spirit is made to 
;ravel through a solution of copper, silver, or gold, 
le decomposes it, and deposits the metal, particle by 
Darticle, on the wire which conducts him back to 
,he battery. Now by attaching a suitable model or 
nould to this wire we can procure this metallic 


deposit in any shape, and by substituting any 
utensil for this mould, we may cover it with a film 
of gold or silver.* 

We have not done full justice to our Spirit's 
abilities, as we have omitted to mention the many 
services he has rendered to the astronomer, the 
geographer, the chemist, and the physician ; we 
have said enough, however, to give the reader an 
idea of his versatile powers. 

We have shown that he can travel with the 
rapidity of thought across a continent or an ocean ; 
that he can write and print our messages in the 
most distant places ; that he can measure time as it 
flies, move all kinds of machinery, and melt copper 
in cold water. We may search through our old 
fairy tales and romances in vain to find a spirit 
capable of performing such miracles as these. 

* The Electrotype. 


" Do not our lives consist of the four elements ?" 

Twelfth Night. 

WHAT is the world made of? According to the 
ancient doctrine of the Four Elements, all things 
are formed of fire, air, earth, and water ; and the 
varieties and differences in the properties of bodies 
depend entirely on the proportion in which these 
great principles are mingled. 

While we confine our observations to the external 
properties of matter, this beautiful doctrine seems 
incontestable. If we kindle a few dry sticks on a 
cool hearth, we may remark that while the wood 
burns there rises smoke or air ; the smoke is fol- 
lowed by flame or fire; moisture or water is depo-- 
sited on the hearth ; and ash or earth remains. 

Everywhere can we detect the presence of the 
mighty elements. Fire can be set free from innu- 
merable substances ; air penetrates the pores of all 
bodies, and covers the world like a mantle ; water 
forms the all-embracing sea, and nourishes every 
plant and animal : while earth enters into the com- 
position of all solids, and gives form and stability to 
the universe. 


Man himself seems to be built up of the four 
elements, and according to the first theoretical 
system of medicine, health indicates their perfect ba- 
lance, and disease, the preponderance of one of them. 

Such is the old doctrine of the Four Elements, 
simple and concise enough, but unfortunately 

Modern science has satisfactorily demonstrated 
the compound nature of fire, air, earth, and water, 
and they can no longer be regarded as . elements. 
By the term element, we understand any kind of 
matter which up to the present time has never been 
decomposed into constituents, and which conse- 
quently appears to have a simple nature. The true 
elementary bodies may be compared to the letters 
of the alphabet, and the diversified compounds 
which compose the material world to the words 
which form a language. 

Let us examine the imaginary elements of the 
ancients, and see whether they will help us to 
arrive at the true solution of the problem what is 
the world made of? 

A candle in burning seems to disappear com- 
pletely, and when the combustion is over, an insig- 
nificant trace of ash from the wick is all that 
remains to the eye. According to the Greek philo- 
sophers, tallow contains an ethereal substance called 
Fire, which being set free, takes the form of flame ; 
the gradual decrease of the candle is therefore ac- 
counted for by the dissipation of its chief constituent. 


Before we can accept this explanation we must 
be quite satisfied that Fire is a substance. 

Wherever we perceive light and heat emanating 
simultaneously from a combustible body, we say 
there is fire but we can bring forward no proof of 
the material existence of this so-called element. 
We cannot weigh it, measure it, or put it in a 
bottle ; nor can we imagine it existing apart from 
a burning substance. Fire, after all, may be nothing 
but a name for certain phenomena of heat and light. 
These two great forces are intimately connected ; 
thus, whenever we raise a solid object to a high 
temperature it becomes luminous ; first it emits a 
dull red light, which changes as the temperature 
increases to orange, then to yellow, and finally to 
full white. 

The flame of a'candle is a white hot cone of vola- 
tile matter, which we vaguely term Fire if we can 
discover the real nature of this cone we shall be 
able to define Fire with some degree of accuracy. 

The chemist tells us that nothing can be abso- 
lutely destroyed, and that what we call destruction 
is merely the conversion of a visible body into an 
invisible one. To reconcile this statement with the 
gradual disappearance of the burning candle, we are 
forced to conclude that the tallow is changed into 
an invisible gas or vapour, and escapes into the air. 
Now as no solid can become aeriform without the 
agency of heat, the question naturally arises 
whence comes the heat that vaporizes the tallow ? 


Everybody is familiar with the fact, that a con- 
siderable amouut of heat is evolved when water is 
poured upon quicklime, a fact which illustrates the 
great chemical law, that no union of two bodies can 
take place without a change in their temperature. 

The intense heat emitted by the flame of a candle 
may be traced to chemical action. If we cover a 
lighted candle with a glass shade, the flame will 
soon begin to languish, and in a few minutes it will 
expire. The flame seems to rob the confined air of 
a certain virtue which is essential to its continued 
existence. This is the true interpretation of the 
phenomenon. The air contains a wonderful gas 
called oxygen, which combines with the vaporized 
tallow, just as water combines with quicklime, and 
their union is attended by a development of heat. 

The phenomena presented by a burning candle 
may now be easily understood. The tallow is melted 
and sucked up to the top of the wick, where it is 
boiled and converted into vapour. This vapour 
combines rapidly with the oxygen of the surround- 
ing atmosphere, and the heat evolved is such as to 
render the vapour luminous. To bring about the 
combustion of the candle it is necessary to apply 
heat to the wick, but afterwards the heat which 
is liberated is more than sufficient to sustain the 

We have now arrived at a tolerably clear con- 
ception of Flame ; it is merely volatile combustible 
matter heated to whiteness. Fire is simply a con- 


venient word which we make use of to denote the 
extrication of light and heat during combustion, 
and the ancient notion that it is one of the primor- 
dial constituents of the material world is no longer 

Fire is often spoken of as the destroying element, 
but we must bear in mind that combustion only 
alters the state of bodies ; there is no actual de- 
struction or loss of weight when a body is burned, 
though the products of combustion may be invi- 

If we set fire to a small fragment of phosphorus 
and cover it with a dry tumbler, dense white fumes 
will arise, which will condense on the sides of the 
glass in snow-like flakes. If we collect this white 
substance and weigh it, we shall find that it is more 
than twice as heavy as the phosphorus. How is 
this 1 ? The explanation of this apparent anomaly 
is simple enough. The phosphorus, in burning, 
combines with the oxygen of the atmosphere to 
form this white compound, which is known to 
chemists by the name of Phosphoric Acid, the 
weight of the oxygen is therefore added to that of 
the phosphorus. 

Some of our readers will doubtless receive this 
information with astonishment. It seems scarcely 
credible that a substance having the appearance of 
snow should be produced by the union of an invi- 
sible gas and a yellow wax-like solid. Chemistry 
is a science of marvels, and this wonderful dissimi- 



litude between a compound body and its consti- 
tuents is anything but an exceptional case ; in 
fact it is this change of properties that distin- 
guishes chemical union from mere mechanical 

Our tallow candle is composed of two invisible 
eases and a black solid, and is therefore a much 

o ' 

more extraordinary compound than the white phos- 
phoric acid. When a caudle is burned, the products 
of the combustion are invisible gases ; these gases 
can nevertheless be collected by the chemist, and 
are found to weigh more than the original candle. 
Coal, coke, wood, and other combustibles which are 
employed as fuel, likewise form gaseous compounds 
with the oxygen of the atmosphere. This is a very 
significant fact, for were the products of combustion 
invariably solid, like phosphoric acid, the world 
would long since have been buried in ashes. 

We have examined the first of the so-called ele- 
ments of the ancients, and have proved it to be a 
manifestation of intense chemical action between 
two or more bodies. Let us now proceed to consi- 
der the nature of Air. 

" There exists a certain thing," says a philosopher 
of the sixteenth century, " which we do not per- 
ceive, and in the midst of which is plunged the 
whole xiniverse of living beings. This thing comes 
from the stars, and we call it air. Fire, in order 
that it may burn, requires wood, but it also requires 
air. The air, then, is the life, for if air be wanting 


all living beings would be suffocated and die." In 
all ages the atmosphere has been regarded as the 
great source of life, and long before the famous 
dogma of the Four Elements was propounded, a 
Grecian sage declared that air was the one uni- 
versal principle from which everything proceeded. 

We have already alluded to the fact that com- 
bustible bodies combine with a certain gas called 
oxygen, which is contained in the atmosphere ; our 
readers will not, therefore, be surprised when we 
tell them that air is a mixture of dissimilar gases, 
but they will marvel greatly when we describe the 
properties of its constituents. 

If we boil some mercury or quicksilver in a closed 
glass vessel, in a few hours the metal will undergo 
a very extraordinary change. It will lose its me- 
tallic character entirely, and in place of the glis- 
tening fluid we shall find a heap of bright red scales. 
As these scales weigh more than the original 
mercury, we may safely conclude that something 
has been abstracted from the air contained in the 

If we now take a lighted match and plunge it 
into the air that remains, it will be instantly extin- 
guished; it is therefore evident that the abstracted 
something is oxygen. 

Let us close the vessel once more and apply to it 
a strong heat ; the red scales are now converted 
into metallic mercury, and the air regains its pro- 
perty of supporting combustion. 
D 2 


This beautiful experiment proves air to be a mix- 
ture of oxygen and a certain gas in which no ordi- 
nary combustible will burn. This gas has been 
named azote or niti-ogen. 

Oxygen forms about one-fifth of the atmosphere, 
and nitrogen nearly the remaining four-fifths ; to 
these components must be added about one two- 
thousandth part of a gas called carbonic acid, and 
traces of another body called ammonia. Though 
these two last-named constituents bear such a small 
proportion to the others, we shall presently see that 
they have important duties to perform in the 
economy of nature. 

The composition of the atmosphere is everywhere 
uniform ; we may bring down air from the summit 
of the highest mountain and collect it in the deepest 
valley, but we shall not be able to detect the slightest 
variation in its composition. 

The same uniformity is apparent whether we 
examine the air of the polar regions or that of the 
tropics ; whether we collect it in the densely popu- 
lated city or in the untrodden forest. This fact 
seems all the more wonderful when we consider the 
contaminating influence of the coiintless exhalations 
that are continually rising into the atmosphere. 
The clouds of smoke poured forth by our chimneys, 
the expired breath of animals, and the gases that 
proceed from decaying matters, do not perceptibly 
disturb the equilibrium of the constituents of the 
atmospheric ocean. 


We must remember that this aerial ocean is some 
forty-five miles in depth, and that the vapours 
which arise from the earth are rapidly diffused 
throughout its entire extent. 

The atmosphere exerts a pressure upon the earth's 
surface equal to about fourteen and a half pounds 
upon each square inch ; and it has been calculated 
that its entire weight amounts to more than five 
thousand one hundred and fourteen billions of tons 
a sum which words may express, but which the 
human mind cannot appreciate. Our readers will 
gain a clearer conception of this enormous sum when 
we tell them that it is equivalent to the weight of 
a solid globe of lead some sixty miles in diameter ! 

We have said that the atmosphere contains an 
aeriform body called carbonic acid. Let us now 
see how this fact may be proved. When quicklime 
is exposed to the air it gradually loses its caustic 
properties, and increases in weight ; this increase of 
weight depends on the absorption of carbonic acid 
from the surrounding atmosphere. 

We may expel this gas from the altered lime by 
heat, and collect it in suitable vessels for examina- 
tion. We find it to be much heavier than ordinary 
air so heavy, indeed, that we may pour it from 
one vessel to another, like water. If we plunge a 
lighted taper in it the flame will be instantly ex- 
tinguished; and if we substitute a mouse or any other 
small animal for the taper, the poor creature will be 


This gas is the chief product of combustion ; our 
candles and fires are continually pouring it forth 
into the atmosphere, animals expire it from their 
lungs, and it is produced in every case of putrefac- 
tion and fermentation. 

Carbonic acid, so fatal to animal life, is essential 
to the life of plants ; indeed the existence of the 
whole vegetable kingdom depends on the presence 
of this gas in the atmosphere. Carbonic acid is a 
compound of oxygen and carbon or charcoal, which 
substance is the principal constituent of all plants. 
Every green leaf may be compared to a little che- 
mical laboratory, in which the carbonic acid of the 
air is decomposed, the carbon being retained by the 
plant, while the pure oxygen is cast forth into the 

Vegetables absorb the carbon which is exhaled 
in combination with oxygen by animals, and the 
two great divisions of organized beings are thus 
indissolubly connected by the interchange of sub- 
stances necessary to their existence. 

The old fable of the Hamadryads who presided 
over the trees of the forest, and who died when the 
trees were cut down, shadowed forth a deep truth. 
In the fairy-tales of science we read that the lives, 
not merely of wood-nymphs, but of all living crea- 
tures, are dependent on trees and herbs ! 

The atmosphere invariably contains a minute 
portion of ammonia, another compound body, its 
constituents being nitrogen and a gas called hydro- 


gen. Ammonia is absorbed by water, and it is 
therefore brought down to the earth by rain, where 
it forms a valuable manure for plants ; its impor- 
tance may be conceived when we state that the 
nutritious qualities of grain and other vegetable 
stibstances are mainly derived from the nitrogen 
contained in this aerial manure. 

Watery vapour is constantly present in the 
atmosphere, though we can scarcely call it a consti- 
tuent of air. Its presence can be easily demonstrated 
by putting some ice in a tumbler, for when the 
glass is sufficiently cool, the vapour will be con- 
densed upon its outer surface in the form of dew. 

We have resolved air into its component gases, 
and have thus exploded the old notion of air being 
an element. 

Our investigations have brought to light certain 
bodies which may be justly considered elements, 
namely oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. 
These substances have never yet been resolved into 
constituents, but we do not dogmatically assert that 
they are absolutely simple in their nature. We 
call them elements because we cannot prove them 
to be compounds, though it is not impossible 
that they may turn out to be such at some future 

That a mixture of four dissimilar elements should 
produce the life-supporting atmosphere is a fact 
that may well excite our wonder. Who would 
suspect that the mild and genial air which envelopes 


our planet could be formed of ingredients which 
separately exhibit such striking peculiarities, and 
which combine in other proportions to form com- 
pounds all more or less fatal to life? 

An atmosphere of pure oxygen would be too 
exciting to be compatible with long life in animals, 
even if we could imagine the existence of life in a 
blazing world ; for not only those substances 
which are generally spoken of as combustibles, 
but even the metals, burn with great violence in 

In an atmosphere of nitrogen, animals could not 
exist at all ; indeed this gas formerly went by the 
name of azote, the literal significance of which is 
"fatal to life." 

Two volumes of oxygen mixed with eight of 
nitrogen form " the breath of life," but when these 
gases are combined in other proportions they 
form compounds which have very different pro- 

One of these compounds is the protoxide of ni- 
trogen, a gas which may be inhaled for a few 
minutes without danger, but which is incapable of 
supporting life for any length of time. When 
breathed it produces great mental excitement, and 
occasions a total loss of volition. The person who 
inhales it performs a hundred strange antics ; he 
talks incoherently, laughs wildly, sings, dances, and 
sometimes fights ; he feels that he is lighter than the 
atmosphere, and sees all things under a new aspect. 


In old times these extraordinary effects would 
probably have been ascribed to some mischievous 
demon contained in the laughing gas, and the " bell, 
book, and candle," would have been deemed indis- 
pensable for its exorcism. 

Another compound is a colourless and invisible 
gas so poisonous that animals plunged into it in- 
stantly expire ; a third, a corrosive orange-coloured 
vapour, equally noxious ; and a fourth, the well- 
known liquid called aqua-fortis, a powerful acid 
which dissolves copper and other metals, and which 
destroys all organic substances. 

Such are the compounds of nitrogen and oxygen, 
the very elements which we draw into our lungs at 
every inspiration, and without which we could not | 

Carbonic acid gas though incapable of supporting 
life is not poisonous, and its presence in the atmo- 
sphere does not disturb our vital functions. Ani- 
mals may be drowned in pure carbonic acid, but 
they cannot be poisoned by it. If the atmosphere 
contained another compound of carbon and oxygen, 
namely, carbonic oxide, in place of this innocuous 
gas, the world would be a lifeless desert, as carbonic 
oxide is an active poison, and a very small quantity 
of it would suffice to infect the air. 

The philosopher who declared that air came from 
the stars, figuratively expressed a great truth. We 
have only to examine the wondrous constitution of 
the gaseous mixture to be convinced that it must 


have had a celestial origin, and that the potent 
elements of which it is composed must have been 
mingled by an all-wise and beneficent Power. 

We have resolved Fire into the phenomena of 
light and heat, and have separated the constituents 
of Air ; let us now summon Water into our pre- 
sence, and compel that supposed element to reveal 
its true nature. 

Water, like Air, was once regarded as the origin 
of all things ; indeed this belief in the universality 
of moisture may be said to have laid the foundation 
of speculative philosophy among the Greeks. 

Water exists in the three physical states the 
solid, liquid, aeriform. By adding heat to liquid 
water we convert it into aeriform water, or steam ; 
by abstracting heat from it, we change it into solid 
water, or ice ; in either case the chemical composi- 
tion of water remains unaltered. 

We can demonstrate the compound nature of 
Water by analysis or by synthesis ; in plainer lan- 
guage, by resolving it into its elements, or by form- 
ing it from its elements. Let us first see how its 
analysis may be effected. 

Some chemical compounds, the red mercurial 
scales, for example, are decomposable by heat, but 
Water is merely vaporized by this potent agent. 
To overcome the attractive force or affinity which 
binds the elements of Water together, we must call 
in the aid of some substance which has a superla- 
tive affinity for one of these elements. 


Such a substance is potassium, the lightest of 
our metals. When exposed to the air potassium 
rapidly loses its metallic character by combining 
with oxygen, with which gas it forms potash ; we 
therefore conclude that potassium has a strong 
affinity for oxygen. 

If we throw a small fragment of this metal into 
water, it takes fire and burns, while swimming 
about on the surface of the liquid, with a brilliant 
light of a violet-red colour. When the combustion 
is over, no vestige of the potassium remains, but 
we find that the water has acqiiired the acrid taste 
of potash. The chemist thus interprets the pheno- 
menon : Water is a compound of oxygen and a 
highly inflammable gas called hydrogen ; when 
potassium is thrown into Water it combines with 
a portion of its oxygen to form potash, and the 
heat which attends their union sets fire to the libe- 
rated hydrogen. It is not the metal that burns so 
furiously, but one of the constituents of water. 

Here is a revelation far more wondei'ful than 
anything we find in our old story books ! 

Oxygen gas is the great supporter of combustion ; 
even the metals will burn away in it like tinder. 
Hydrogen is the lightest gas known ; it is very in- 
flammable, and gives out an intense heat while 
burning. Water, the great antagonist of Fire, is 
built up of these two fieiy elements ! 

Wherever we find Water we may be sure that 
these two elements are present. We may detect 


them in the water of the boundless ocean, the 
placid lake, and the murmuring rivulet j in the 
floating cloud and the jagged iceberg ; in the rain- 
drop, the hailstone, and the snow-flake ; in the 
jewel that glitters upon the bosom of the rose, and 
in the tear that falls from the mourner's eye ! 

Potassium is not the only substance that decom- 
poses water. Everybody is familiar with the fact that 
iron rusts when placed in water. Now the rusting 
of iron is a similar phenomenon to the conversion 
of potassium into potash ; they both depend upon 
the absorption of oxygen. At a red heat, iron de- 
composes water very rapidly. When steam is made 
to pass through a long red-hot iron tube it is re- 
solved into its elements. The oxygen unites with 
the iron to form rust, and the hydrogen is set free. 
By weighing the tube before and after the opera- 
tion, the chemist is able to determine the proportion 
in which the two elements are combined. 

In a hundred parts by weight of water he in- 
variably finds eighty-nine of oxygen and eleven of 

We may employ our old friend the Amber Spirit 
to separate the elements of Water, as this versatile 
being is a most skilful analytical chemist. The 
Spirit can set free the oxygen and hydrogen in two 
distinct streams of bubbles; whereas, the human 
operator can only liberate one of these gases by 
forcing the other to combine with some new body. 

We have spoken of the inflammable nature of 


hydrogen, but we have not yet explained the phe- 
nomena which attend its combustion. This gas 
when pure burns with a very pale flame, the pro- 
duct of its combustion being water, which escapes 
into the atmosphere in the form of an invisible 
vapour. If a cool tumbler be inverted over the 
flame this vapour will be condensed into minute 
drops, which will trickle down the inner surface of 
the glass. The combustion of hydrogen is there- 
fore a manifestation of the intense affinity of this 
gas for the oxygen of the air. 

If we mix the two gases in the proportion in 
which they combine to form water, and apply a 
lighted match to the mixture, the gases will in- 
stantly unite with a deafening explosion. All the 
water produced will merely suffice to damp the sur- 
face of the vessel in which the .explosion takes 
place, as no less than 2550 measures of the gaseous 
mixture are required to form one measure of water. 

Here is another marvellous revelation ! The two 
gases have separately resisted every attempt made 
by the joint efforts of cold and pressure to liquify 
them, yet they combine and form water, the type of 
liquidity ! 

According to the dogma of the Four Elements, 
everything that is neither fire, air, nor water, is ne- 
cessarily earth. Now a moment's consideration will 
convince us that innumerable bodies having the 
most diverse properties are comprised in this defi- 
nition of the so-called element. 


We cannot therefore deal with Earth as we have 
dealt with its mighty brethren ; we cannot deduce 
any general conclusions as to its nature from the 
analysis of a single sample. We may resolve a 
particular handful of soil into its elements, but we 
dare not assert that these elements are common to 
the multitudinous handfuls which constitute the 
solid portions of our planet. 

How, then, are we to proceed with our investiga- 
tions 1 Were we to examine in regular order the 
various compounds included in the ancient concep- 
tion of earth, our fairy tale would assume the 
character and proportions of an encyclopaedia. To 
preclude such a result, we must abandon the ana- 
lytical method of inquiry, and be content to accept 
certain comprehensive truths that chemistry has 
revealed regarding the constitution of different 
kinds of earth. 

The diversified compounds which form the mate- 
rial world have been resolved by the chemist into 
sixty-three elementary bodies, fifty of which are 
metals. These elements are rarely found in a state 
of purity, owing to their strong tendency to com- 
bine with each other. 

The principal ingredients of Earth, are compounds 
of oxygen with certain elementary bodies that are 
never found pure in nature. 

Silica, the most widely-diffused compound, con- 
tains oxygen, and another of the metalloids, or non- 
metallic elements, called silicon, which can be 


isolated as a dark-brown powder. Sand, flint, and 
quartz consist almost entirely of silica ; so do the 
granitic and siliceous rocks which form, so large a 
portion of the earth's crust. 

The highest and most extensive mountain ranges 
are huge masses of silica, and the deserts of Africa 
and Asia are vast plains of the same abundant 
substance. Silica forms the sand and shingle of the 
sea-shore, and enters into the composition of every 
soil ; it is the chief ingredient of some of our most 
precious jewels ; of the invaluable transparent 
glass ; and of the stones with which we pave our 
streets and build our temples. 

Alumina is a compound of oxygen with a very 
extraordinary metal named aluminium, of which we 
shall have to speak in another of our fairy tales. 
Alumina is the basis of every kind of clay, and is 
only second in importance to silica. It is also a 
constituent of our rocks and soils, of our gems, and 
our building materials ; and we make use of it to 
form eartfonware, a substance which rivals glass in 

Lime is another abundant metallic oxide or rust, 
its base being calcium, a beautiful silver-white 
metal, which burns brilliantly when heated in the 
air. In nature, lime is generally found in combi- 
nation with carbonic acid, one of the constituents 
of the atmosphere. The well-known substance, 
chalk, which forms our far-famed white cliffs, the 
compact limestones used in architecture, and all 


the elegant varieties of marble, are examples of this 

The solid portions of our globe are almost as rich 
in oxygen as the atmosphere and ocean. Every 
rock is a compound of oxygen with certain metallic 
and non-metallic bodies. Silica contains about half 
its weight of this abundant element ; alumina no 
less than one-third ; and lime two-fifths. 

In some compounds oxygen is replaced by another 
metalloid. Common salt, the chief saline matter of 
sea- water, is a compound of sodium, a metal closely 
allied to potassium, with chlorine, a remarkable 
gaseous body, which in some respects resembles 
oxygen. The glistening yellow mineral called iron 
pyrites, contains iron, and the metalloid sulphur. 
The variegated crystalline substance known as 
fluorspar, is a compound of calcium, the metallic 
base of lime, with Jluorine, a mysterious body 
which the chemist has never yet been able to pro- 
cure in a separate state. 

The so-called noble metals namely, gold, silver, 
mercury, platinum, and a few others are usually 
found in a state of purity ; sulphur is frequently 
met with uucombined ; and carbon is found pure 
in the diamond. With these few exceptions, the 
material world may be said to be an assemblage of 
compounds formed by the union of thirteen metal- 
loids with fifty metals. 

Plants and animals are almost wholly composed 
of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon ; hence 


these metalloids have been styled the organogens, or 
organ-forming elements. The chemist tells us that 
wood, sap, starch, muscle, blood, nerve, and all 
other organized substances, result from the combi- 
nation of these four principles in varying pro- 

Vegetables feed upon inorganic matter ; they 
dei'ive their carbon from carbonic acid, their nitro- 
gen from ammonia, and their oxygen and hydrogen 
from water. 

Animals are dependent upon the vegetable king- 
dom for their sustenance. A large number of races 
feed directly upon herbs and fruits ; others prey 
upon the bodies of these vegetable-feeders. When 
animals die, their bodies suffer decomposition, and 
their original constituents water, ammonia, and 
carbonic acid, return to the atmosphere, to nourish 
another generation of plants, for another generation 
of animals to feed upon. 

The elements are indestructible, and death merely 
alters the arrangement of their atoms. 

The ancient philosopher contended that all things 
were formed out of four elements : the modern 
philosopher declares that the two great organic 
kingdoms spring from a few invisible gases. The 
theory seems almost as credible as the fact ! The 
following words from the pen of a celebrated che- 
mist,* read like a page of some wild romance, and 

* Liebig. 


yet they deal with facts that are incontrovertible : 
" Man is formed of condensed air (or solidified and 
liquefied gapes). He lives on condensed as well as 
uncondensed air, and clothes himself in condensed 
air. He prepares his food by means of condensed 
air, and by means of the same agent moves the 
heaviest weights with the velocity of the wind. 
But the strangest part of the matter is, that thou- 
sands of these tabernacles formed of condensed air, 
and going upon two legs, occasionally, and on ac- 
count of the production and supply of those forms 
of condensed air which they require for food and 
clothing, or on account of their honour and power, 
destroy each other in pitched battles by means of 
condensed air." 

We have now arrived at a true solution of the 
great problem what is the world made of 1 ? 

The three kingdoms of nature are built up of 
some sixty-three elementary bodies, endowed with 
the most diverse properties and affinities ; each 
being destined to perform some important part in 
the great system of creation. Truly has it been 
said, that the powers of not one element could be 
modified without desti'oying at once the balance 
of harmonies, and involving in one ruin the economy 
of the world ! 

Although the ancient doctrine of the Four Ele- 
ments has been exploded by chemistry, we must 
still honour the mighty sages by whom it was pro- 
pounded. The doctrine is not wholly false, and 


were we to confine our observations, as they did, 
to the external properties of matter, we should be 
forced to acknowledge the justice of their con- 

In some sense the world is really made up of the 
four elements. Fire may be said to represent the 
imponderable agents heat, light, and electricity ; 
the remaining elements, the three physical states of 
ponderable matter, namely, the gaseous, liquid, and 
solid. The difference between our present views 
and those of the ancients consists in this, we regard 
these states as mere modes of existence, while they 
believed them to be distinct principles. 

We must now take leave of the Four Elements, 
as we fear our readers are growing impatient for 
another story from the plenteous budget of Science. 

fife 0f 

" Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alex- 
ander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole ?" Hamlet. 

THE particles of matter are subject to strange 
vicissitudes. Every atom has its peculiar history. 
In all probability the countless molecules of carbon, 
oxygen, and hydrogen which are aggregated into 
this lump of white sugar, met together for the first 
time in the juice of the cane. Where were they 
before the sugar-cane was planted 1 Who can tell 1 
One of these atoms of carbon may have coursed 
through the veins of a Hottentot, another may have 
existed in the brain of a Laplander ! 

The old story-tellers never scrupled to endow 
inanimate objects with the faculty of speech. Let 
us follow in their footsteps, and create a talking 
atom. Such a gifted entity might thus recount his 
adventures in the three kingdoms of nature : 

" I am an atom of carbon. The members of my 
family are innumerable, and are disseminated 
throughout the universe. Some of my brethren 
are grouped together in those diamonds which are 
so much prized by the strange atomic fabrics called 


human beings. These jewel-forming atoms are much 
to be pitied, though they give themselves great airs, 
and sneer at their unaristocratic relations. I would 
a hundred times rather be the roving atom that 
I am, than one of the molecules of the Koh-i-noor 

" When the world was young I led a very steady 
life. I remember forming part of a huge mass of 
rock which was built up of atoms of carbon, oxygen, 
and calcium.* For ages I never saw the light, and 
remained in ignorance as to the existence of any- 
thing besides the atoms which surrounded me. 
Fortunately I was situated very near the surface ot 
the rock, and in course of time the atoms above me 
were removed, probably by the drops of water 
which fell from the heavens. 

" Never shall I forget the delight I experienced 
on first beholding the outer world ! I thought I 
should never be able to bear the brilliant sunlight, 
which dazzled me so that it was some time before I 
could make out the separate features of the scene. 
How beautiful, how grand everything seemed ! 
and yet the landscape that was then unfolded before 
me was unenlivened by organic forms ; there was 
not a tree to be seen not so much as a blade of 
grass life had but just dawned upon the globe. 
The rock of which I was a constituent, was part of 
an island, and from my station I could see the ever- 

* Limestone, or Carbonate of Lime. 


restless ocean, whose atoms danced about so joyously 
that I longed to be among them. At the foot of the 
rock ran a little stream, which probably con- 
veyed some atoms like myself into new scenes of 

" Night came on, and new wonders were revealed. 
Those marvellous celestial atoms, the stars, looked 
down upon me with their sparkling eyes ; and the 
silvery light of the moon gave fresh grandeur to 
the ocean and my rocky island. As I gazed upon 
the glittering waters I thought of my poor brethren 
who were deep down in the rock, and sighed ! 

" Next day the sun was obscured by clouds, and 
large drops of water fell from the sky. The stream 
became a river, and dashed through the valley at a 
headlong pace. The atoms constituting the rain- 
drops biiffeted me very severely, and at length 
their blows detached me, with a few old friends, 
from the mass of my brother atoms. The friends 
who clung to me in the hour of adversity were 
three atoms of oxygen and one atom of calcium. 
For countless ages we had been united, and now 
the rain-drops, with all their bluster, could not 
sever us. 

" No sooner were we detached, than a stream of 
moving atoms impelled us down the sloping sides 
of the rock and hurled us into the river. There 
could be no rest for us there. The rapid current 
carried us through numerous valleys and gorges, 
and finally launched us into the ocean. 


" We now began to lead a new kind of life. The 
atoms of the ocean were not fixed, like those of 
the rock. They glided over each other with perfect 
ease, and were continually in motion. As a matter 
of course, these atoms communicated their motion, 
to us. It would be impossible for five little mole- 
cules to stand still while myriads were pushing 
them. We performed some wonderful voyages 
during the ages that we spent among the oceanic 
atoms. Sometimes we passed from the Equator to 
the Poles ; but our usual course was from west to 
east, in which direction a mighty stream of atoms 
constantly flowed round the globe. 

"A strange mishap forced us to relinquish our 
roving habits. In traversing a chain, of rocks we 
were sucked into the stomach of a tiny plant-like 
animal,* whose frame was built tip of numberless 
atoms, most of them members of the carbon family. 
A place was found for us in this living organism 
beside certain atomic groups, each composed of five 
individuals exactly like ourselves. 

"In course of time the vital force which had aggre- 
gated the various molecules into such a wondrous 
system ceased to act; in other words, the animal 
died. The atoms which formed the soft portions of 
the body now began to change their position, and in 
a very short time they were all carried away by the 
wandering atoms of the ocean. As for me, I was 

* The Coral Polype. 


still surrounded by my four friends, and still 
associated with numerous five-fold groups. The 
creature who had robbed us of our liberty was now 
no more, but for all that we were unable to move. 
We were fixed to the rock upon which the or- 
ganism had nourished ; indeed, incredible as the 
statement may appear, the entire reef, which ex- 
tended for some hundreds of miles, was composed 
of atoms that had been snatched from the ocean by 
innumerable generations of those gelatinous little 

" I cannot say how long I existed as a constituent 
of this marine rock. An atom takes no heed of 
time, and a few millions of years pass by very 
quickly. Time affects only those compound entities 
called plants and animals. 

" The surface of the earth underwent some strange 
mutations while I was a rock atom. The relative 
position of land and water changed. Mountains 
were upheaved by the internal fires of the globe, 
and deep valleys were eroded by rivers. The 
waters of the ocean receded from the reef to which 
I belonged, and left it high and dry, as a chain of 
hills in the interior of a vast continent. None of 
these changes, however, disturbed my repose. The 

* The barrier reef along the north coast of Australia is 
composed of a chain of coral rocks, and is more than 1000 
miles long, and from 10 to 90 miles in breadth, while it rises 
from depths which in some places certainly exceed 1800 feet. 
What a mausoleum for creatures so low in the scale of being ! 


ties which bound me t'o my fellow atoms seemed 

" At length the rock of which I was a constituent 


was subjected to a new mutation by volcanic 
agency. The pent-up fires of the earth burst 
through the ancient reef, and liberated myriads of 
its component atoms. For some time I remained 
unaffected by the commotion, but eventually I felt 
the disturbing effects of the intense heat, and 
found that my bonds were loosened. I was no 
longer a rock atom, and the ascending stream of 
fiery particles bore me into the atmosphere. 

" As for my old companions who had hitherto 
shared my reverses, only two of them attended me 
now, for the atom of calcium had persuaded one of 
the atoms of oxygen to remain with him in the 
rock. The metal was not fitted for an aerial life, and 
did not care to be separated from all his friends. 
What a marvellous difference the absence of those 
two atoms made in the group to which I be- 
longed. When there were five of us we consti- 
tuted a solid molecule ; now we formed a compound 
gaseous atom.* 

" Who can describe the joys of an aerial atom ? I 
have never yet been a part of a poet's brain, and 
it is therefore quite out of my power to set forth in 
appropriate language the varied pleasures of an at- 
mospheric existence. My roving life as an atom of 

* Carbonic Acid. 


the ocean had its charms, but it was not to be com- 
pared with -the life I now led among the sportive 
atoms of the air. My two friends remained true 
to me. Indeed, had it not been for their constant 
watchfulness I should have fallen to the earth, for 
I was not buoyant enough to float unsupported. 

" Sometimes we soared to a great height, where the 
aerial atoms were very far apart, but we usually 
kept near the surface of the earth. How changed 
was the aspect of nature ! When I first beheld the 
outer world all was barren and lifeless, now every 
scrap of dry land was covered with a luxuriant 
vegetation.* The plants were mostly of great mag- 
nitude, though, strange to say, some of them were 
closely allied to the humble ferns and tiny mosses 
of the age of man. I have seen many wondrous 
things in my time, but nothing to surpass those 
ancient forests, composed of ferns as large as oaks, 
and mosses seventy feet high ! 

" I was destined to become a part of one of these 
gigantic mosses. As I was passing through a forest 
with myriads of aerial atoms, I happened to strike 
against a leaf, which instantly absorbed me, but 
allowed my two companions, who had never been 
separated from me before, to pass on with the rest. 
For some time I circulated through the vessels of 
the living plant as a constituent of the sap, but at 
length I settled down among the atoms of carbon, 

* The Carboniferous Period. 


oxygen, and hydrogen which were aggregated into 
particles of wood. Such are the vicissitudes of an 
atom, now literally as free as the air, now a captive 
in the tissues of a living organism ! A second 
time the hidden processes of life had compelled me 
to part with my liberty. 

" I have already alluded to the mutability of the 
earth's surface. The disturbances that took place 
during the time that I was a vegetable atom were 
of a very extraordinary character. The group of 
islands upon which the monster ferns and mosses 
flourished, sank beneath the waves, and in course of 
time they became overlaid with beds of rock, formed 
by the deposition of sand, clay, and other materials 
at the bottom of the ocean, the sedimentary matter 
being hardened by heat and pressure. Human 
beings talk of the stability of the earth, but we 
atoms know very well that its great characteristic 
is instability. Why ! the crust of this so-called im- 
movable earth is continually bulging out in some 
places and falling in others ! 

" I did not lead a very merry life in the depths of 
the earth, but still I did not repine. Experience 
had taught me that I was a creature of circum- 
stance, and must submit to my destiny. How long 
I remained underground I cannot say. Millions of 
years may have flown by, but they brought me no 
change. Numberless atoms of oxygen and hydrogen 
that were associated with me in the living plant, 
forced their way between the molecules of the over- 


lying rooks, and thus escaped from, their subterranean 
prison. I was too firmly attached to my solid 
brethren to accompany these adventurous atoms, so 
I waited patiently for succour, assured that it would 
come sooner or later. 

" My deliverance was effected by the agency of 
Man, that wondrous being, partly composed ot 
atoms like myself, and partly of an immaterial 
spirit, who now reigned supreme over the other 
organisms of the world. Having found that the 
compressed remains of the ancient forests* could be 
made to yield light and heat, agents which greatly 
contributed to his happiness, he sank deep pits 
through the rocks, and transferred me, with myriads 
of my brethren, from the earth's gloomy depths to 
its sun-gilt surface. 

" Now commenced the eventful period of my life. 
Hitherto my transitions had been few. Twice had 
I been a constituent of stone ; twice, a part of a 
living organism ; I had tasted the pleasures of a 
marine existence ; I had floated joyously in the 
air ; I had lain for ages in the bosom of the earth. 
But in the few short years that have elapsed since my 
release from bondage, I have passed through a far 
more wonderful series of changes. 

" Let me now recount the chief incidents of my 
modern career. I will make use of as few words 
as possible, lest my narrative should be cut short 
by a new alteration in my condition. 
* Coal. 


" Soon after my arrival at the surface of the earth, 
I was separated from my brother atoms by the 
process of combustion, and carried aloft by two 
members of the great oxygen family. My freedom 
was of short duration. Nature had set innumer- 
able traps for me, in the shape of living organisms, 
and by one of them I was soon made captive. 

I now became a part of a grain of wheat, and in 
course of time I found myself in the stomach of a 
man. In the human frame I passed through a definite 
course of vicissitude, and was then breathed forth 
to make room for a new-comer. Once more I enjoyed 
the pleasures of an aerial life, which, I need scarcely 
say, were again shared by two atoms of oxygen. 

"From the atmosphere I passed into the substance 
of a tree, which was destined to fall by the hand of 
man soon after my absorption. By a cunning pro- 
cess the wood was decomposed ; its volatile atoms 
of oxygen and hydrogen were set free, and an ag- 
gregate of carbon atoms* remained. 

" Man had not yet done with me and my dusky 
brethren ; he had separated us from our companions 
in order that we might be at liberty to unite with 
certain atoms of iron, and thus produce a substance 
which he greatly prized, f This strange union was 
effected, and in course of time I became a part of 
one of those weapons with which man destroys his 
fellow man. 

"I now witnessed some fearful scenes of bloodshed, 
* Charcoal. f Steel. 


and being an atom of a philosophical turn of mind, 
I often speculated upon the motives that induced 
those short-lived atomic structures called men to 
hasten each other's dissolution. When I speak of 
these scenes as fearful, I make use of a human ex- 
pression, for I need scarcely say that death can 
have no terrors for an undying atom. 

" I was detached from the metallic mass by the 
agency of heat, and two friendly atoms again con- 
veyed me into the atmosphere. My next transition 
was into the juice of a grape, where I remained in 
peaceful retirement, until man induced me to be- 
come a constituent of a bright and sparkling liquid, 
which he confined in strong glass bottles.* How 
long I remained a pi'isoner I cannot say, but as 
soon as my bottle was opened I made my escape in 
a bubble of gas. After a short flight through the 
air, I passed into a blade of grass, and thence into 
the huge frame of an ox. 

" The next change in my condition was brought 
about by human agency, and I became a constitu- 
ent of a volatile and colourless liquid, which was 
such a terrible poison that a few drops of it would 
suffice to kill the largest animal. t Now, it so hap- 
pened that a foolish man swallowed a small quan- 
tity of this liquid. He grasped the little phial 
which contained the poison with a trembling hand, 
he raised it to his lips, and in another moment I found 
myself in his lifeless body. A simple atom can 
* Champagne. + Prussic Acid. 


form no idea of the motives which induce composite 
beings to perform certain actions, but as far as I can 
judge, this self-destruction seems to be unworthy of 
a being like man. 

"When I escaped from the dead body, I passed 
into the vegetable kingdom, where I became a part 
of a beautiful flower. Soon after, I found myself 
in the body of a bee, and in course of time I became 
a constituent of one of the waxen cells which the 
little artisan had so cleverly constructed. From 
the honeycomb I passed into a wax taper, from 
which I was released by the process of combustion. 

"It was now my lot to spend some time among the 
aerial atoms; but at length I came in contact with the 
sugar-cane, and became a constituent of the sweet 
juice from which the lump of sugar was extracted. 

" Such is the story of my life, or rather of a frag- 
ment of my life. I enjoy perpetual youth. To- 
day I may be buried in a mass of corruption, but 
to-niorrow I may form a part of a newly-opened 
rose. Time cannot reach me ; his hour-glass may 
be broken and his scythe may be shattered, but still 
I shall exist. At the present moment I am joined 
to countless atoms, indestructible and eternal like 
myself, in a fragment of sugar, but who can tell 
where I shall be in a year's time !" 

This peroration has been cut short by our first- 
born, who has run away with the lump of sugar, 
and we have every reason to believe that the atom 
is undergoing new transitions. 

fifth lit. 

" Many a little, makes a mickle." OLD PROVERB. 

IN the foregoing pages we have assumed that all 
things are made up of very little bits, called atoms. 
This view of the nature of matter is purely conjec- 
tural, but it agrees so well with the truths revealed 
by Science, that we must admit it to be highly pro- 
bable. Let us descend for a while from the realms 
of imagination, and lay before our reader the facts 
upon which the beautiful theory of atoms is based. 

The word "atom" is derived from the Greek lan- 
guage, and signifies " that which cannot be cut," a 
very appropriate term, for an atom being the 
smallest possible particle of a substance, must neces- 
sarily be indivisible. The existence of half an atom 
is inadmissible, because the mind cannot form an 
idea of a particle smaller than the smallest. 

Philosophers are divided in their opinions re- 
specting the nature of the ultimate particles of mat- 
ter : some maintain that they are hard and solid, 



and therefore of a definite size and weight, though 
so minute as to defy all our optical instruments to 
enable us to perceive them ; others hold them to be 
mere points or centres of force, destitute of solidity 
and magnitude. What is an atom 1 This is a pro- 
blem which the human mind can never solve, it can 
only throw out shrewd guesses at the truth. We 
will, however, take it for granted that the ultimate 
particles of matter are indivisible and indestructible, 
without wasting our time on metaphysical subtleties. 
Though we can form no conception of the abso- 
lute size of atoms, the wonderful divisibility of mat- 
ter furnishes many proofs of their extreme minute- 
ness. The gold-beater hammers out a single grain 
of the precious metal until it covers forty-nine 
square inches. Now, each square inch of this gold 
leaf may readily be cut into a hundred strips, and 
each strip into a hundred pieces, each of which is 
distinctly visible to the unaided eye. A single 
grain of gold may thus be subdivided into 490,000 
visible parts. But this is not all ; if attached to a 
slip of glass the leaf may be subdivided still further, 
as ten thousand lines may then be ruled in the 
space of a square inch, and in this manner the en- 
tire leaf, weighing but a grain, may be cut into 
4,900,000,000 fragments, each visible by meansof the 
microscope. As we require no less than ten figures 
to express the number of parts into which a grain 
of matter may be subdivided by mechanical means, 
and as each of these parts must contain a vast 


number of particles, we see that an atom must be 
a very little bit indeed ! But gold furnishes a still 
more remarkable instance of the extension of mat- 
ter. The gilt wire used in embroidery is formed 
by extending gold over the surface of silver. A 
very little gold is made to go a very long way, for 
each grain is spread over a surface of nearly ten 
thousand square inches. 

In the animal and vegetable kingdoms we meet 
with some surprising instances of the divisibility of 
matter. The microscope reveals the existence of 
animals so wonderfully minute that it takes a 
hundred millions of them to weigh a grain, yet 
each creature is possessed of distinct organs, and 
must be composed of innumerable atoms. 

The spores of the lycoperdon or puff-ball are 
found to be little orange-coloured globes, and 
although each spore is capable of becoming a living 
plant, no less than 125,000 of them would be re- 
quisite to form a single globe of the diameter of a 
human hair. 

The sense of smell enables us to perceive particles 
of whose magnitude we can form no adequate con- 
ception. Odour is simply the disengagement of 
the volatile particles of a substance, yet a single 
grain of musk has been known to perfume a large 
room for the space of twenty years ! 

We may rest assured, then, that the atoms of 
matter are exceedingly minute, though their actual 
size can never be determined by our powers of per- 


ception. Let us now consider the aggregation of 
these little bits into masses. 

The force which holds the atoms together is called 
cohesion; it is greater in solids than in liquids, 
while in aeriform bodies it seems to be altogether 

We have every reason to believe that the ultimate 
particles of a body are never in actual contact, but 
are placed at a certain distance from each other, so 
that there exists around every individual particle a 
space void of matter. All bodies are more or less 
compressible, and unless we acknowledge the exis- 
tence of these empty spaces we must suppose that 
two or more particles are capable of occupying the 
same place at the same time : a supposition which is 
opposed to the notion of an atom having a definite size. 

A volume of air can be compressed into a space a 
thousand times smaller than that which it originally 
occupied, and we must therefore conclude that the 
atoms of air are separated by wide intervals. Solids 
and liquids must also have interstices or pores 
between their particles, as they invariably expand 
when heated and contract when exposed to a low 

The porosity of gold was demonstrated some two 
hundred years ago by the famous Florentine experi- 
ment. A. hollow ball of the precious metal, filled 
with water, was submitted to a great pressure, by 
which the fluid was made to ooze through its pores 
and bedew its outer surface. 


The distance between the particles of matter is 
greater in liquids than in solids, and greatest in 
gases and vapours. It is highly probable that all 
bodies, even the densest metals, contain more space 
than matter in other words, that the atoms are 
much smaller than the spaces which separate them. 
Some of our greatest philosophers have held the 
atoms of matter to be immeasurably small, compared 
with their surrounding spaces. 

Newton thought that the whole material world 
might be compressed into the space of a single cubic 
inch, provided that its particles could be brought 
into actual contact. 

Sir John Herschel compares a ray of light pene- 
trating glass, to a bird threading the mazes of a 
forest ; and says that there is no absurdity in imagi- 
ning the atoms of a solid to be as thinly distributed 
through the space it occupies as the stars that com- 
pose a nebula. 

We need scarcely say that these hidden truths do 
not fall within the sphere of scientific inquiry, but 
can only be subjects for the exercise of speculation. 
All our instruments are far too clumsy to help us 
to a knowledge of atomic magnitudes ; the compasses 
that can measure the interval that separates particle 
from particle, and the scale that will turn with the 
weight of an atom, do not belong to man, though 
the imagination may picture such delicate contri- 
vances in the laboratory of a scientific fairy. 

These considerations lead us to a subject about 


which we do know something, namely, the relative 
weights of the ultimate particles or atoms of bodies. 

Chemistry has revealed the existence of some 
sixty-three elementary bodies, or, according to the 
atomic theory, sixty-three different kinds of atoms. 
Now, although we cannot ascertain the actual weight 
of a single atom, we have good grounds for believing 
that an atom of oxygen is heavier than an atom of 
carbon and lighter than one of sulphur. Before we 
enter into this subject, we have a few words about the 
great man who revived the ancient theory of atoms, 
and made use of it to explain the mysterious laws 
of chemical combination. 

John Dalton was born in Westmoreland, in the 
latter portion of the last century, and belonged to 
the sect of Quakers. When very young he resided 
with Mr. Goxagh, of Kendal, a blind philosopher, to 
whom he read, and whom he assisted in his scientific 
investigations. It was here that he acquired a con- 
siderable part of his education, particularly his taste 
for mathematics. From Kendal, Dalton went to 
Manchester, and commenced teaching elementary 
mathematics to young men. In this way, together 
with a few courses of chemical lectures which he 
occasionally delivered, he contrived to support him- 
self during a long and useful life. His slender in- 
come was always equal to his wants, and in his con- 
tempt for riches he resembled the sages of antiquity. 

His kind heart and powerful mind gained him 
many friends and admirers, and in course of time 


he came to be regarded as a great philosopher, 
though he still continued to earn his bread as a tutor. 
Such was the founder of the beautiful atomic theory 
of Chemistry, which is so well adapted to render 
certain natural laws intelligible to our understanding. 

In examining the so-called four elements, we 
alluded to the fact that bodies united to form com- 
pounds in definite proportions. Let us explain this 
matter more fully. Water invariably contains 
oxygen and hydrogen, in the proportion of eight 
parts by weight of the former element to one part 
of the latter, whether these parts represent tons, 
pounds, grains, or any other quantities. The whole 
of the oxygen contained in the ocean is exactly 
eight times heavier than the hydrogen with which 
it is combined, and the weights of the two gases 
bear the same relation to each other in the dew-drop. 
If we take any other chemical compound, we shall 
find that the proportions by weight of its consti- 
tuents are invariable ; thus there is a broad distinc- 
tion between such a compound and a mere mixture 
in which the ingredients are present in indefinite 

Water is not the only compound that can be 
formed of oxygen and hydrogen. We can compel 
one part of hydrogen to combine with sixteen parts 
of oxygen, and the result of their union is a colour- 
less liquid, less volatile than water, and having a 
metallic taste. This liquid, called peroxide of hydro- 
gen, and water, are the only compounds that can be 


formed of the two gases. This fact is well worthy 
of consideration. Hydrogen will combine with 
eight or with sixteen parts of oxygen, but in no 
other proportions. Let us now glance at some 
other compounds. The poisonous gas known as 
carbonic oxide, contains six parts of carbon and 
eight of oxygen ; but six parts of carbon also com- 
bine with sixteen of oxygen to form carbonic acid. 
Again, in ordinary coal-gas we find one part by 
weight of hydrogen xinited to six of carbon. 

How can we account for these recurrent numbers ? 
What relation subsists between the number 8 or 
its multiple 16, and oxygen ; between 1 and hydro- 
gen ; between 6 and carbon ? Why should these 
three bodies combine in fixed numerical propor- 
tions 1 

According to the beautiful atomic theory ot 
Dalton, these numbers express the relative weights 
of the ultimate particles of matter. Let us consider 
the composition of water in this light. The smallest 
possible particle of water is composed of one atom 
of hydrogen gas and one atom of oxygen, the latter 
being eight times heavier than the former. Now, 
it is evident that whatever may be the number of 
particles in a given volume of water, the relative 
weights of the two gases will remain constant. 
The smallest particle of the peroxide of hydrogen 
contains one atom of hydrogen and two atoms of 
oxygen ; accordingly, there can be no compound of 
hydrogen and oxygen between water and the 


peroxide, unless we admit the existence of half- 
atoms. We have only spoken of three of the ele- 
mentary bodies, as we wished our remarks to be as 
simple as possible ; each of the sixty-three elements 
has, however, a definite combining proportion or 
atomic weight. 

How admirably this atomic theory explains the 
laws of chemical combination ; how intelligible it 
renders those fixed, invariable weights in which 
the elements unite to form compounds. All is 
shown to depend on the properties with which those 
inconceivably small particles of matter are in- 

We have told the reader all we know about 
atoms (at least all we think we know, for we can 
never be certain that atoms exist). They are im- 
measurably mimite ; they are separated from each 
other by wide intervals, and they have a definite 

A German chemist has endeavoured to render 
the atomic theory intelligible by a very inge- 
nious illustration. He compares atoms to the 
heavenly bodies, which, in comparison with the 
extent of the space in which they are suspended, 
are infinitely small : that is, are atoms. In- 
numerable suns, with their planets and attendant 
satellites, move in infinite space, at definite and 
measured distances from each other. They are 
individually indivisible, inasmuch as there exists 
no force capable of separating them into parts, 


tearing off from them anything material, or altering 
their size or form in such a degree as to be per- 
ceptible, or to impair or disturb their relations to 
the other heavenly bodies. In this sense the 
whole universe coalesces into one immense body, 
the atoms of which that is, suns, planets, and 
satellites are indivisible and unchangeable ! 

There are many things in nature which the human 
mind will never be able to comprehend ; and fore- 
most among them we must place our Little Bit. 


"But when you see th' effects of the Great Medicine, 
Of which one part projected on a hundred 
Of Mercury, or Venus, or the Moon, 
Shall turn it to as many of the Sun, 
Nay, to a thousand, so ad infinitum, 
You will believe me." BEN JONSON. 

WHO has not heard of the Philosopher's Stone, 
that much-coveted but unattainable red powder of 
the alchemists, which was supposed to possess the 
powers of transmuting baser metals into gold, of 
healing disease, and of restoring youth 1 Who has 
not read of those misguided men of former ages, 
whose lives were passed in attempting to discover 
this precious substance, which was to confer upon 
them inexhaustible wealth, health, and longevity, 
but whose labours too often resulted in poverty, 
sickness, and death? 

In the present day we are too apt to regard the 
doctrine of transmutation, which formed the basis 
of alchemy, as a mere hallucination of the human 
mind ; and to look upon the men who entertained 
it with mixed feelings of pity and contempt. Now 


if we only take the trouble to dip into the subject 
of Alchemy, we shall find that the idea of the 
transmutation of baser metals into gold stood in 
the most perfect harmony with all the observations 
and all the knowledge of the age in which it was 
conceived, and that the alchemists, instead of being 
crack-brained enthusiasts, were the most learned 
and acute men of their time. 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there 
were many impostors who pretended a knowledge 
of gold-making ; but it is unjust to confound them 
with the true alchemists, who were equivalent to 
the chemists of the present day. We cannot really 
draw a line of demarcation between alchemy and 
chemistry, as the one science passed by an imper- 
ceptible transition into the other. Alchemy is 
ancient chemistry, and chemistry modern alchemy. 
Many of the opinions entertained by the chemists 
of to-day are quite as extravagant as those held by 
the alchemists. Indeed, as our knowledge increases, 
the transmutation of metals seems to grow more 
and more probable. 

Before we consider the magical transformations 
that are effected by the modern alchemist, let us 
examine some of the doctrines propounded by his 
ancient representative. 

The alchemist maintained that all the metals are 
compounds ; that the baser metals contain the 
same constituents as gold, contaminated with 
various impurities. To transmute any metals into 


gold, these impurities must be removed or reme- 
died, a result only to be attained through the 
agency of the great medicine, or philosopher's 

This view of the nature of metallic bodies was 
perfectly consistent with known facts. It was 
known that the colour or hardness of a metal could 
be modified by the addition of a foreign substance, 
and it was only natural to suppose that the dif- 
ferent qualities of the metals depended on certain 

Gold was the only pure or healthy metal. Brass 
was diseased gold ; mercury was diseased silver; 
but these metals, and all the others, might be 
healed, or transmuted into gold, by the wonderful 
red powder. In the mystical language of the al- 
chemists gold was called Sol, or the sun j silver, 
being the next metal in purity, was Luna, or the 
moon ; and the other five metals then known re- 
ceived the names of the planets. 

The idea that the philosopher's stone possessed 
the powers of curing diseases, and of prolonging 
life, was evidently suggested by its supposed effect 
on ignoble metals. Since it could heal the metallic 
lepers, and convert them into gold, why should it 
not ennoble the human body ? 

The existence of the philosopher's stone was 
never questioned, though few of the alchemists who 
have left writings behind them boast of having 
had it in their possession. In all the wonderful 


stories that are told of the conversion of the baser 
metals into gold, some mysterious unknown is made 
the fortunate possessor of the magical substance. 
The narrative of Helvetius, the distinguished phy- 
sician to the Prince of Orange, is a good example 
of these stories : 

At the close of the year 1666 a stranger called 
upon Helvetius, and showed him five large plates 
of gold, which he said he had made by means of 
the philosopher's stone. The physician, who had 
hitherto been a bitter opponent of alchemy, was not 
prepared to receive this extraordinary statement 
without some convincing proof of its truth ; he 
therefoi'e besought the stranger to give him a small 
portion of the stone, or at least to make a trial of 
its powers in his presence. The stranger refused to 
accede to either of these requests, and took his 
leave, promising, however, to return in six weeks. 
He kept his promise, and presented Helvetius with 
a piece of the stone about the size of a mustard- 
seed. Next day the physician, in the presence of 
his wife and son, put six drachms of lead into a 
crucible, and as soon as it was melted, threw into 
it the fragment which he had obtained from the 
adept. The crucible was now covered wifch its lid, 
and left in the fire for a quarter of an hour, at the 
end of which time the whole of the lead was con- 
verted into gold. The melted metal was at first of 
a deep green colour, then it became blood-red, but 
when cold it assumed the true tint of gold. This 


ingot stood all the tests that were applied to it by 
Porelius, the Warden of the Dutch Mint, and was 
found to be pure gold ! We need scarcely add that 
the sceptical Helvetius became a firm believer in 
the transmutation of metals. 

We dare not accept this strange story as a true 
one, though we cannot comprehend the motives 
that could have induced Helvetius to promulgate 
that which he knew to be false. In the present 
state of our knowledge, we regard lead and gold as 
distinct bodies, and not modifications of the same 

If the alchemists failed to discover the philoso- 
pher's stone, we must not conclude that their 
labours were fruitless. In seeking that which had 
no real existence, they found some inestimable trea- 
sures ; for most of those acids, alkalies, and salts 
that are indispensable to the modern experimental- 
ist were discovered hundreds of years ago by the 

" The philosopher's stone," says Baron Liebig, 
" for which the ancients sought with a dim and ill- 
defined impulse, was in its perfection nothing else 
than the science of chemistry. Is that not the phi- 
losopher's stone which promises to increase the 
fertility of our fields, and to ensure the prosperity 
of additional millions of mankind ? Does not che- 
mistry promise that instead of seven grains we shall 
be enabled to raise eight, or more, on the same 
soil 1 Is that science not the philosopher's stone 


which changes the ingredients of the crust of the 
earth into useful products, to be further transformed 
by commerce into gold 1 Is that knowledge not 
the philosopher's stone which promises to disclose 
the laws of life, and which must finally yield to us 
the means of curing diseases and of prolonging life ?" 
With these remarks we will take our leave of the 
ancient alchemists, and proceed to consider the 
labours of the alchemists of the present day. 

Let us step into a laboratory and surprise one of 
these men of science at his work. What a different 
place from the smoky workshop of the alchemist of 
former days ! The massive furnaces have given 
way to cunning contrivances for gas, and all the 
clumsy alembics, aludels, and earthen vessels which 
were once in vogue, have been displaced to make 
room for tiny bottles, retorts, glass tubes, and 

The alchemist himself has shaved off his long 
beard, and has discarded his ample gown ; he now 
wears a most unpicturesque black coat, and looks 
for all the world like an ordinary person. 

What is he doing 1 Is he trying to transmute lead 
into gold ? No, he is not satisfied that the metals 
are transmutable, and he cannot afford to waste his 
life in researches which may never lead to satisfac- 
tory results. He is doing something which seems 
quite as extraordinary as gold making he is ex- 
tracting a beautiful metal from clay ! 

This metal, which is called aluminium, was first 


procured in a separate state some thirty years ago, 
but in so small a quantity that its peculiar qualities 
could not be denned. We are indebted to a cele- 
brated French adept* for the process by which the 
metal can be obtained in considerable masses. 

Here is a bar of aluminium. It resembles 
silver in its beautiful lustre, but can be easily dis- 
tinguished from that metal by its bluish colour. 
If we handle the bar we shall marvel greatly at its 
lightness, as aluminium is only two and a-half times 
heavier than water, or less than one-third the weight 
of iron. The alchemist will tell us that it is 
endowed with many striking properties. It can be 
fused almost as easily as zinc, and cast into any 
form. It is malleable and ductile to a great extent, 
and can be beaten into the thinnest plates, or drawn 
out into the finest wires. It is a better conductor of 
electricity than any metal at present known. It does 
not tarnish on exposure to the air, and is not affected 
by the sulphurous vapours that prove so destructive 
to the lustre of silver. It is admirably adapted for 
the manufacture of bells, as it has all the sonorous 
qualities of the most expensive bronzes. Its marvel- 
lous lightness and strength render it an invaluable 
material for defensive armour. It is free from 
deleterious qualities, and therefore suited for domes- 
tic utensils. It may be fashioned into ornaments 
that will never lose their splendour, and into deli- 

* M. St. Claire Deville. 


cate scale-beams and watch-wheels that will never 
be affected by rust. In fine, aluminium seems to 
possess properties which render it useful in a thou- 
sand ways, and if the process by which it is ob- 
tained can be further simplified, it will prove an 
inestimable boon to mankind. The source of alumi- 
nium is inexhaustible, since it is the base of every 
kind of clay. About one-third of the weight of 
every brick, every stone-jar, and every tea-cup con- 
sists of this curious metal. 

Who will say that alchemy is extinct 1 What 
science but alchemy would enable us to extract a 
metal having an intrinsic value equal to that of 
gold, from a lump of worthless clay? 

The artificial formation of lapis lazuli is another 
brilliant achievement of modern alchemy. This 
mineral has always been esteemed for its beautiful 
azure-blue colour, and for furnishing us with the 
valuable pigment, ultramarine. 

Before the chemist could produce ultramarine 
artificially, he required to know the composition of 
the natural mineral ; before he could form a por- 
tion of lapis lazuli, it was necessary that he should 
pull another portion to pieces for a pattern. This 
preliminary operation was soon performed, and 
lapis lazuli was found to be composed of silica, alu- 
mina, and soda, three colourless bodies, with sul- 
phur and a trace of iron, neither of which is blue. 
The chemist was not a whit disheartened at the 
absence of any colouring ingredient, as he knew 


that it was impossible to account for the colour of 
most chemical compounds. He now combined the 
five ingredients of the mineral in their proper pro- 
portions, and saw, to his great delight, that the com- 
pound assumed the matchless hue of ultramarine. 
The artificial ultramarine is even more beautiful 
than the natural, while for the price of a single 
ounce of the latter we may obtain many pounds of 
the former. 

Surely our modern alchemists have discovered 
the true philosopher's stone, for with the compara- 
tively valueless substances, flint, clay, soda, sulphur, 
and iron, they form a mineral which was formerly 
nmch dearer than gold ! 

We cannot tell what wonders may yet be per- 
formed by the modern alchemists ; one of their 
number has said, that to-morrow or next day some 
one may discover a method of producing, from a 
piece of charcoal, a splendid diamond ; from a bit 
of alum, sapphires or rubies, or from coal-tar the 
beautiful colouring principle of madder, or the 
valuable remedies known as quinine and morphine ; 
all these things being either as precious or more 
useful than gold. 

The extraction of aluminium from clay, and the 
manufacture of ultramarine, are examples of che- 
mical analysis and synthesis, but not of transmuta- 
tion. Let us now examine the opinions entertained 
by the alchemists of to-day on the subject of the 
transmutation of elementary bodies. 


The ancients believed the metals to be compounds, 
and this view may be correct. They are now con- 
sidered to be simple substances, not because they 
are known to be un decomposable, but because they 
have never yet been decomposed. Fifty years ago 
upwards of a dozen bodies were regarded as elements 
which are now known to be compounds of metals 
with oxygen. 

Who can tell what another period of fifty years 
may do for alchemy ? It is quite possible that at 
the end of that time the sixty -three so-called simple 
bodies may be found to be mere modifications of 
three or four elements, or perhaps of one primordial 

These considerations lead us to reflect on the 
curious transformations which occur in the proper- 
ties of certain elementary bodies, and which must 
be regarded as instances of transmutation. Now, 
a difference in the properties of two compounds 
having the same composition, may arise from a dif- 
ference in the arrangement of their ultimate par- 
ticles ; but how is it with the different forms as- 
sumed by a simple body 1 A mass of phosphorus 
is supposed to be an aggregate of similar atoms, yet 
this and many other substances of a simple nature, 
are liable to strange variations of condition which 
we are as yet unable to explain. 

The element carbon exists in many different 
states. This irregular lump of charcoal, this light 
powder called lamp-black, and this hard semi- 


crj^stalliue mass of coke, are mere modifications of 
one substance. 

Again, this piece of graphite is chemically the 
same substance, as it is simply an aggregate of 
carbon atoms ; but it has none of the properties of 
charcoal. It has a metallic leaden-grey lustre, 
whence its familiar name of black-lead. It burns 
with great difficulty ; it is greasy to the touch, 
and it leaves dark traces when rubbed upon paper. 

But the most remarkable form assumed by carbon 
is that of the diamond. This precious gem occurs 
in nature in regular crystals, usually colourless, 
but sometimes yellow and brown. Now, we are 
convinced that this brilliant and transparent body 
is made up of the very same atoms as those which 
go to form the dull black mass of charcoal ! The 
alchemist has not yet succeeded in making dia- 
monds, but he has already transmuted diamonds 
into coke. Who knows but what he may reverse 
this transmutation before long ! 

When we find a single element assuming these 
Protean shapes, we must admit that the notions of 
the old alchemists were far from being extravagant. 
To a person ignorant of chemistry it would appear 
much more probable that the metals are modifica- 
tions of one substance, than that the diamond is 
merely crystallized charcoal. 

Sulphur may be obtained in various forms. The 
roll-sulphur or brimstone, and the fine powder called 
flowers of sulphur, are probably the only forms 


known to the reader. The alchemist, however, 
procures sulphur in beautiful semi-transpai-ent crys- 
tals; in needle-like prisms of a brownish-yellow 
colour ; and in a soft and sticky mass, which may 
be drawn out into elastic threads, and which 
greatly resembles shoemaker's wax. 

Phosphorus is equally changeable, and may be 
obtained in no less than five different forms. Let 
us compare ordinary phosphorus with its most 
striking modification, which has been designated 
amorphous phosphorus. Ordinary phosphorus is a 
colourless waxy-looking solid ; the amorphous 
phosphorus is opaque, and of a brownish-red colour. 
The former is easily fusible, very inflammable, and 
luminous in the dark ; the latter may be heated in 
the open air without change, until the temperature 
reaches 500, when it is converted into ordinary 
phosphorus. Great caution is required in handling 
the ordinary phosphorus, as the heat of the hand is 
sometimes sufficient to inflame it ; but the philoso- 
pher who discovered the amorphous phosphorus* is 
in the habit of carrying this variety loose in his 
pocket. Common phosphorus dissolves in bisul- 
phide of carbon ; the altered phosphorus is in- 
soluble in that liquid. The former is very poi- 
sonous ; the latter, in the same dose, has no effect 
on the animal system. 

These marvellous differences are inexplicable. 
We are able to change the ordinary phosphorus 
* M. Schrotter. 


into the amorphous variety by means of heat, with- 
out adding to it any new substance, therefore we 
are quite sure that the soft translucent solid that 
takes fire so easily is chemically the same substance 
as that uninflammable solid which looks like a piece 
of common red sealing-wax. Were we unable to 
effect this strange transmutation, we should doubt- 
less regard these two modifications of phosphorus 
as distinct elements. 

The invisible gas, oxygen, can be made to assume 
a very strange condition, by transmitting through it 
a succession of electric sparks. This altered oxygen, 
which has received the name of ozone, exhibits some 
very striking pi-operties. It has a powerful odour, 
whereas ordinary oxygen is destitute of the slightest 
smell. It possesses considerable bleaching powers, 
corrodes organic matters, and acts as a powerful 
oxidizing agent. It seems to be much more active 
than ordinary oxygen, and might easily be taken 
for a distinct element by those ignorant of the fact 
that its active character can be destroyed by heat. 

These instances of actiial transmutation will 
suffice to convince the reader that alchemy still 
exists. He will see that our modern alchemists 
are true descendants of the ancient gold-seekers, 
though they no longer believe in the philosopher's 
stone. He will be less disposed to ridicule the 
idea of the transmutation of metals, and will be 
able to form some conception of the wonderful 
products of modern alchemy. 

ujit of 

" The glorious sun 
Stays in his course, and plays the alchemist." 

King John. 

WHEREVER the Sunbeam falls we find life and 
motion ; elsewhere, death and stillness. Under its 
influence the seed germinates, the stem sends forth 
branches, the leaf bursts from the bud, the flower 
unfolds its petals, and the fruit grows and ripens. 

This subtle agent plays an important part in 
many of the fairy tales of science. The philosopher 
has conducted it into his dark laboratory, and by 
twisting and torturing it with cunningly-devised 
instruments, has forced it to reveal so many won- 
derful truths, that the mind, in attempting to 
grasp them, is fairly bewildered. The Magic of the 
Sunbeam is indeed an inexhaustible theme, and we 
can only touch upon a few of its mysteries. 

Every sunbeam consists of light, heat, and 
chemical power, or actinism. At present we will 
consider the sunbeam as a ray of light, without 
regarding its other principles. 

What is light ? This is one of those unanswer- 


able questions that meet us on the threshold of 
every science. Some philosophers entertain the 
opinion that light consists of tiny particles of 
matter thrown off from a luminous body with pro- 
digious velocity in all directions. Others suppose 
it to be an undulation or vibration produced in a 
medium called ether, which is believed to pervade 
all space. The former view of the subject is 
termed the theory of emission ; the latter, the un- 
dulatory theory. We cannot say which of these 
hypotheses, or guesses, approaches nearest to the 
truth, but the undulatory theory has by far the 
greater number of supporters. 

Whether a ray of light be a stream of incon- 
ceivably minute particles of matter, or a succession 
of waves in an ethereal medium, we are quite 
certain that it travels at the rate of nearly two 
hundred thousand miles in a single second. But 
such is the disproportion between the distances of 
the celestial bodies, that light must be about eight 
and a quarter minutes in reaching us from the sun; 
about five hours in coming from the planet Nep- 
tune ; years from the nearest fixed star ; and 
probably centuries from the nebulae ! When we 
look up at the heavens, we do not see the stars as 
they are now, but as they were many years ago, for 
the light which now renders them visible must 
have left them long before we were born ! 

Rays of light are emitted, under ordinary cir- 
cumstances, in direct lines ; they will not pass 


through a bent tube, nor turn a corner. Bodies 
through which light passes freely are called trans- 
parent, and those which do not admit it to pass, 
opaque. When light falls iipon an opaque surface 
a portion is absorbed and another portion reflected ; 
when the reflected portion is considerable the sur- 
face appears white, and Hack when the portion is 

We have said that a sunbeam consists of three 
great principles, namely, light, heat, and actinism. 
These may be but modifications of one force, but in 
the present state of our knowledge it is better to 
regard them as distinct agents. 

Light acts upon the organs of vision, and enables 
us to distinguish external objects. Heat regulates 
the solid, liquid, and aeriform states of matter, 
and maintains this planet in the condition which 
is essential to the well-being of its inhabitants. 
Actinism brings about those wonderful chemical 
changes which are constantly occurring in nature. 
These three principles unite to form our magic 
sunbeam, just as three chemical elements unite to 
form a compound. 

How can we decompose a sunbeam? How can 
we separate those principles which are linked to- 
gether in such a mysterious manner? Easily 
enough, for by the instrumentality of a triangular 
bar of transparent glass, called a prism, the beam 
can be instantly resolved into its components. 

If a sunbeam, admitted into a dark chamber by 


a small hole in the window-shutter, be allowed to 
fall on a prism, its subtle constituents are mys- 
teriously disturbed, and precipitate themselves at 
different distances on a white tablet, or screen, 
placed to receive them. What marvellous change 
is this ! A moment since the beam formed a 
bright spot on the screen, but now in place of the 
spot we see a lengthened band of variegated colours ! 
On one side of the prism a pencil of brilliant white 
sunlight falls upon the surface of the glass ; on the 
other the pencil spreads out and paints upon the 
screen a ribbon whose beauteous hues infinitely sur- 
pass the colours that lie on the artist's palette ! 
Examine these colours attentively. At the bottom 
of the band we find red, above it orange, then yellow, 
green, blue, indigo, and lastly violet. These co- 
lours pass by insensible gradations into each other, 
so that it is impossible to say where one colour ends 
and another begins. 

We have thus decomposed the visible principle 
of the sunbeam into its elementary colours, for our 
readers must know that white is a compound of 
seven hues. The natural colours of bodies depend 
entirely upon the manner in which they decompose 
the sunbeams. A rose is red because its petals have 
the property of absorbing all the elementary colours 
of light except red, which it reflects. The pigments 
used by the artist are not, in themselves, colours ; 
they are merely substances that absorb certain rays 
and reflect others. Our readers will now understand 


how it is that a body which reflects most of the 
light that falls upon it appears perfectly white. 

But we have not yet done with the variegated 
band, or prismatic spectrum, as it has been termed. 
If a highly sensitive finger were held in the yellow 
rays of the spectrum, a degree of warmth would be 
felt, greater than if it were held in the violet rays. 
But if it were removed to the extreme red rays a 
great deal more heat would be perceived than in 
either of the former cases. Now, we have imagined 
the existence of a finger far more sensitive to slight 
variations of temperature than ordinary fingers are, 
but these results have been obtained by means of 
very delicate thermometers, or heat measurers. 

Let us now take a piece of paper, prepared for the 
photographic process, and place it upon the screen 
so that it may receive the rainbow-like colours upon 
its sensitive surface. On removing it it will be 
found to be blackened at a point beyond the violet 
rays of the spectrum. The principle which black- 
ens the prepared paper is actinism. 

From these experiments we learn that the sun- 
beam is an ethereal band of different rays, which 
maybe separated by the instrumentality of the prism. 
We learn that heat is less refracted, or bent, by the 
glass than the other powers, as we find it but 
slightly thrown out of the right line which the 
beam would have taken had it not been interrupted 
by the prism. "VVe discover that light is subject to 
greater refraction as the seven colours are thrown. 


upon the screen above the maximum point of the 
heat rays. Lastly, we find that actinism is more 
refrangible than either heat or light, as we know 
that the maximum of this power is found in the 
upper part of the spectrum at a point where light 
rapidly diminishes, and where scarcely any heat can 
be detected. 

The analysis of the sunbeam by means of the 
prism must excite our wonder. Who could imagine 
that a simple wedge-shaped piece of glass would be 
able to separate those imponderable agents which 
reach us after having travelled ninety-five millions 
of miles together ? 

We can isolate either of these solar principles 
without the aid of a prism. The crystal called 
black mica, does not admit light to pass through it, 
but it is freely penetrated by heat j and on the other 
hand, glass stained green by oxide of copper, offers 
scarcely any impediment to the passage of light, 
though it effectually stops the rays of heat. Again, 
a yellow transparent glass obstructs the chemical 
radiations, while a dark blue medium, which arrests 
nearly all the light, allows them to pass. Thus we 
see that the physical conditions of the three solar 
principles are essentially different. 

Let us now consider the magic influences of this 
sunbeam over the animal and vegetable kingdoms. 
The luminous principle first demands our attention ; 
for although we are told that light is less abundant 
than either heat or actinism, we cannot help re- 


garding it as the sunbeam's chief constituent. 
Light is of the highest importance to the health 
and well-being of animals, as may be inferred from 
the fact that animal life ceases in situations from 
which light is totally excluded. The case of the 
Proteus anguinus is exceptional, and therefore de- 
serves some notice. 

This extraordinary little creature is found in 
some of the gloomy caverns of Illyria, into which 
the magic sunbeam never penetrates. " At first 
view," says Sir Humphry Davy, "you might sup- 
pose this animal to be a lizard, but it has the 
motions of a fish. Its head, and the lower part of 
its body, and its tail, bear a strong resemblance to 
those of the eel ; but it has no fins, and its curious 
bronchial organs are not like the gills of fishes. 
They form a singular vascular structure, almost like 
a crest, round the throat, which may be removed 
without occasioning the death of the animal, who is 
likewise furnished with lungs. With this double 
apparatus for supplying air to the blood, it can live 
either below or above the surface of the water. Its 
fore feet resemble hands, but they have only three 
claws or fingers, and are too feeble to be of use in 
grasping or supporting the weight of the animal. 
The hinder feet have only two claws or toes, which 
in the larger specimens are found so imperfect as to 
be almost obliterated. It has small points in place 
of eyes, as if to preserve the analogy of nature. It 
is of a fleshy whiteness and transparency in its 


natural state, but when exposed to light, its skin 
gradually becomes darker, and at last assumes an 
olive tint. Its nasal organs appear large ; and it is 
abundantly furnished with teeth, from which it 
may be concluded that it is an animal of prey, yet 
in its confined state it has never been known to 
eat, though it has been kept alive for many years 
by occasionally changing the water in which it was 
placed." This strange creature, whose life is passed 
in total darkness, has long been a puzzle to philoso- 
phers, as all the facts revealed by science go to 
prove that light is indispensable to organization. 

The dependence of animal life upon light is beau- 
tifully exhibited in the ocean. Water is not abso- 
lutely translucent, and it has been calculated that 
light must lose all its influence at the depth of a 
very few hundred feet into the ocean, even under 
the tropics. Now, it has been satisfactorily proved 
by an extensive series of dredging experiments that 
life diminishes as we descend into the ocean, and 
that beyond the depth of three hundred fathoms it 
ceases altogether. But this is not all, for besides 
being much more numerous, the shells of the differ- 
ent mollusca are much more brightly coloured in 
the upper regions of the ocean than in the lower, 
in fact, a regular gradation of tints may be traced 
as the shells grow deeper in hue as they approach 
the light. 

Man himself is highly susceptible to the influ- 
ence of light, and pines and sickens in darkness. 


Those persons who dwell in dark streets and alleys 
are far more subject to disease than those who reside 
in open places. Again, those who take no heed 
of the old proverb about going early to bed, seldom 
find themselves healthy ; and though they may be 
wealthy, they cannot be deemed wise ! 

Light is absolutely necessary to vegetable life, 
for under its influence the plant separates carbon 
from the air and secretes it within its tissues. Every 
one must have observed how plants grow towards 
the light, especially when confined in a room ; how 
blanched and sickly they become in dark situations, 
and how speedily they recover when exposed to full 
sunlight. When a potato germinates in a dark 
cellar it puts forth long pallid shoots in quest of a 
stray sunbeam ; but let it be exposed to the light 
for a few days, and these shoots will become dark 
and green. 

Flowers are more sensitive to the influence of 
light than leaves ; indeed almost every flower has a 
particular degree of light requisite for its full ex- 
pansion. So regular are the periods of opening and 
shutting with some flowers, that they enable us to 
tell the hour of the day with tolerable accuracy. 
The great naturalist, Linnaeus, made a list of no less 
than thirteen flowers that open and shut at diffe- 
rent hours, and designated them by the fanciful 
title of " Flora's clock." 

Having said enough to prove that there exists a 
mysterious bond of union between organization 



and light, let us now examine some of the effects 
of heat. 

The present condition of our earth is directly 
dependent upon the amount of heat we receive 
from the sun. If it were possible to move this 
planet nearer that orb, the quantity of heat would 
be much increased, and all the present races of 
plants and animals must perish ; the same result 
would happen were the two bodies to be separated 
by a greater distance, owing to a deficiency of the 
genial influence. In the former case the world 
would be much too hot to hold us, and in the 
latter we should be regularly frozen out ! 

The rays that are emitted from the sun are 
partly absorbed by the atmosphere, which acts as a 
screen, and shields the earth's inhabitants from the 
full and perhaps destructive influence of the sun's 
heat. The quantity of heat received by us in one 
year is prodigious, for it has been calculated that it 
would suffice to melt a shell of ice forty-six feet 
thick, and covering every part of the globe. The 
heat-rays striking the earth, become dispersed in a 
variety of ways. Some are reflected, others are 
absorbed. Some of the rays warm the earth, and 
then warm the overlying air, and expanding it, rise 
with it to the upper regions of the atmosphere. 
But by far the greater number of heat-rays pene- 
trate the earth, and descend to a considerable depth. 
In winter this stored-up heat partly returns to the 
surface, and ultimately becomes dissipated into the 
air, and from the air into infinite space. 


Heat, like light, is absorbed in different degrees 
by different substances. The colour and condition 
of surface seems to exert a great influence on its 
absorption ; thus a black body absorbs more heat 
than a white one, and a rough surface more than 
a smooth one. " Every tree," says Mr. Hunt, 
" spreading its green leaves to the sunshine, or ex- 
posing its brown branches to the air, every flower 
which lends its beauty to the joyous earth, possesses 
different absorbing and radiating powers. The 
chalice-like cup of the pure white lily floating on 
the lake, the variegated tulip, the brilliant anemone, 
the delicate rose, and the intensely-coloured peony 
or dahlia, have each powers peculiar to themselves 
for drinking in the warming life-stream of the sun, 
and for radiating it back again to the thirsting 

It is impossible to emimerate the wonderful 
offices performed by heat in the economy of nature. 
By the influence of heat, water is vaporized and 
raised into the air, thence to be precipitated in re- 
freshing showers. The atmospheric currents are 
caused by heat ; the trade-wind, that blows from 
the same quarter throughout the year, the periodi- 
cal monsoon, the gentle breeze, the boisterous gale, 
and the devastating hurricane, are alike manifesta- 
tions of the activity of this mighty principle. 

Let us now glance at that mysterious element of 
the sunbeam which cannot be detected by the 
senses. To modern science is entirely due the 


knowledge we have gained of the chemical powers 
of the sunbeam. The old alchemists, indeed, were 
acquainted with the isolated fact that a white sub- 
stance called Jiorn silver was blackened by exposure 
to the sun's rays, but it never struck them to inves- 
tigate the cause of this curious phenomenon. It 
was reserved for a philosopher of modern times to 
prove that no substance can be exposed to the sun's 
rays without undergoing a chemical change. 

The blackeningof horn silver is but a single instance 
of a vast number of effects produced by that mys- 
terious agent which is associated with light and heat 
in the sunbeam. All bodies are influenced by actin- 
ism, and undergo a chemical or molecular disturbance. 
The rock and the mountain, as well as the animal 
and the plant, are destructively acted upon during 
the hours of sunshine, and would soon perish under 
the delicate touch of the actinic 1'ays, were it not for 
the counteracting influence of darkness. At night, 
the chemical disturbances are undone, and inorganic 
bodies as well as organized beings may be said to 
sleep ! 

The influence of actinism upon germination is 
very remarkable, as seeds will not germinate in light 
from which this principle is separated. But, after 
the leaves are formed, a larger amount of light than 
of actinism is necessary to enable the plant to sepa- 
rate carbon from the atmosphere and form wood. 
Again, the flowering and fruiting of a plant is more 
closely connected with the heat of the sunbeam than 


with its light or actinism. Nature has amply pro- 
vided for the varying wants of plants ; in the spring 
we may detect an excess of actinism in the solar 
rays; in the summer an excess of light, and in the 
autumn an excess of heat. 

We have said that all bodies undergo a chemical 
disturbance when exposed to the solar rays, but it 
must not be supposed that this disturbance always 
manifests itself in a blackening, as in the case of 
horn silver. If a polished plate of metal, of glass, 
of marble, or even a polished surface of wood, be in 
part exposed to the influence of sunshine, it will, 
when breathed upon, exhibit the fact that a distur- 
bance of some kind has taken place upon the portions 
illuminated, whereas no change can be detected upon 
the parts kept in the dark. But if we expose a 
chemically prepared tablet to the sunbeams in a 
similar manner, we may by a certain process render 
the effect produced on its surface permanent, and 
thus as it were fix a shadow. 

The beautiful art of photography, or light-draw- 
ing, is based upon this marvellous fact. Everybody 
is familiar with the grand results of this art. Every- 
body has seen those wondrous pictures which neither 
pencil, brush, nor hand has touched, but which have 
been delicately traced by the magic sunbeam. We 
have ceased to look upon these pictures with asto- 
nishment, just as we have ceased to wonder at the 
locomotive, the electric telegraph, and the steam- 
ship. But in times gone by, had any one asserted 


that he could compel the sunbeams to paint a por- 
trait, he would in all probability have been burned 
as a wizard ; indeed, not many years ago a gentle- 
man was thought to be disordered in his intellect, 
because he deemed it possible to fix the fleeting pic- 
tures seen in the camera obscura. 

We cannot enter fui'ther into the Magic of the 
Sunbeam without leading our readers into the mystic 
regions of mathematics. We have already said that 
the subject is an inexhaustible one, and we are more 
convinced of this than ever when we find what a 
comparatively small number of facts relating to the 
wonderful band of forces called* the sunbeam, we 
have been able to set before the reader. But though 
so much is known about the sunbeam, how much 
still remains obscure ! It is only lately that the 
existence of the mighty principle of actinism has 
been revealed ; and who can tell what forces may 
still be hidden in the beam what unknown powers 
may yet be brought to light by our laborious truth- 
seekers 1 

" Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses." 


THE old proverb which, heads this chapter is sug- 
gestive of many wonderful truths connected with 
vision. Science has demonstrated that two eyes 
are better than one, for many reasons. We require 
two eyes to estimate distances, and to obtain a true 
idea of the roundness, relief, and solidity of natural 
objects. Those ugly one-eyed fellows who helped 
Vulcan to forge the thunderbolts, must have been 
clumsy workmen, in spite of what the ancient writers 
say to the contrary. 

Before we consider the use of two eyes, let us 
examine the structure of a single organ. The eye 
has often been compared with the camera obscura, 
that dark box in which an image is formed of ex- 
ternal objects, by means of an arrangement of glass 
lenses. The eye is, indeed, a dark chamber fur- 
nished with lenses, but here the likeness ceases, as 
its marvellous arrangements are infinitely more 
beautiful than those of any optical instrument de- 
vised by the ingenuity of man. 


The human eyeball is a globular mass, somewhat 
flattened in front, and about the size of a walnut. 
The white part surrounding the centre is called the 
sclerotic coat, deriving its name from a Greek word 
expressive of hardness. This white coat is continued 
round the back of the eyeball, and forms a sort of 
strong bag for containing the other parts of the 
eye. As it is perfectly opaque, it is not continued 
over the front of the eye, but joins the beautiful 
transparent membrane called the cornea, or horny 
coat, which bulges forward a little, and forms that 
wonderful bow- window through which the rays of 
light pass to the brain. Within or behind the 
cornea may be perceived the iris, a sort of coloured 
fringe which assumes different hues in different 
eyes, being dark brown, blue, hazel, or grey, and, in 
exceptional cases, red. When we speak of blue eyes 
or hazel eyes, we refer to the colour of this remark- 
able fringe or curtain. In the centre of the eye, 
surrounded by the iris, is a dark circular space of 
variable dimensions, called the pupil, which is in 
fact the opening through which light passes into 
the dark chamber of the eye. 

The internal structure of this wonderful organ is 
very complicated. The hard white membrane is 
lined by a coat called the clwroid, which is covered 
on the inside with a perfectly black pigment, and 
this again with a delicate network of nerves called 
the retina. The cavity surrounded by these coats 
is filled by three substances, called humours. Be- 


hind the cornea or bow-window is the aqueous 
humour, a perfectly limpid liquid resembling water ; 
the second in situation is the crystalline humour, 
which is a little capsule of transparent membrane, 
holding a small quantity of fluid ; and the third, 
termed the vitreous humour, is a transparent jelly 
which fills the inner chamber of the eye, and con- 
tributes chiefly to preserve the globular figure of 
the organ. 

Each eye is placed in a basin-shaped cavity in the 
skull, called the orbit, and there are various muscles 
attached to different parts of the orbit, which by 
their contraction give a lateral or rolling motion to 
the eyeball, and thus assist in directing the sight 
towards particular objects. Eyelids, also moved by 
muscles, and fringed by the eyelashes, serve to guard 
the eyes from dust, and to screen them from the 
access of too intense a light. 

So much for the anatomy of the eye j let us now 
consider its functions. As already observed, the 
eye may be compared to a camera obscura, for the rays 
of light from any object entering the pupil form an 
image on the retina, just as the picture is painted 
on the ground glass of the camera. The various 
humours of the eye form a wonderful compound lens, 
far excelling the achromatic lenses of the opticians. 
The seat of vision is generally supposed to be the 
retina, though some philosophers regard the choroid 
coat as the sensitive tablet upon which the impres- 
sion is made. We may trace the phenomena of 


vision up to this point, but no further. We know 
that a distinct image is formed upon one or other of 
the delicate coats of the eye, but the mariner in 
which the sensation is conveyed to the brain is an 
inscrutable mystery. " It is the boast of science," 
says Herschel, " to have been able to trace so far 
the refined contrivances of this most admirable 
organ, not its shame to find something still con- 
cealed from scrutiny ; for, however anatomists may 
differ on points of structure, or physiologists dispute 
on modes of action, there is that in what we do 
understand of the formation of the eye so similar, 
and yet so infinitely superior to a product of human 
ingenuity; such thought, such care, such refinement, 
such advantage taken of the properties of natural 
agents, used as mere instruments for accomplishing 
a given end, as force upon us a conviction of delibe- 
rate choice and premeditated design, more strongly, 
perhaps, than any single contrivance to be found, 
whether in art or nature, and renders its study an 
object of the greatest interest." 

The Cyclops had each a single eye stuck in the 
centre of the forehead, but we are provided with a 
pair of these matchless instruments. Each eye re- 
ceives an impression of an object, nevertheless we 
do not see the object double. So long as each image 
falls exactly on the same part of each sensitive sur- 
face, the mind will perceive but one object, and the 
muscles which move the eyes act in such perfect 
unison that this result is constantly attained. 


If we look at a candle placed at a distance of 
about ten feet, we see it distinctly as one object, 
because our eyes are so adjusted that the image of 
the candle is projected on similar parts of each 
retina. But if we now hold up a finger about ten 
inches from the eyes, and look steadily at it, the 
candle will be seen on both sides of the finger. The 
eyes are now adjusted to the finger, and the image 
of the candle no longer falls on the same parts of 
the two retinae. Again, if the eyes be directed to 
the light, the finger will be seen double, because the 
optic axes are now adjusted to perceive objects at a 
distance of ten feet. Similar effects may be pro- 
duced by pressing one eyeball with the finger so as 
to displace its optical axis, or by getting intoxicated, 
an experiment which we trust our readers will never 

We make use of our two eyes as a pair of com- 
passes to measure distances, for we involuntarily 
associate the idea of smallness with the convergence 
of the visual axis, and that of vastness with its 
divergence. We feel that an object is near or re- 
mote, small or large, by opening and shutting our 
magic compasses, the legs of which are imaginary 
lines passing through the eyeballs. A person 
suddenly deprived of one eye estimates the dis- 
tance of objects with the greatest difficulty ; but 
after some time, experience teaches the one eye to 
measure distance by the change of focus alone. 
Let the reader close one eye, and try to snuff a 


candle, he will then see the import of the old pro- 
verb, " Two eyes are better than one." 

We have said that two eyes are reqxiired in order 
to form a true conception of solidity ; this point we 
now proceed to consider. If the reader will look at 
any near object, a book placed on end, for instance, 
he will at once perceive that it is a real book and 
not a picture of one ; he will see that it has a cer- 
tain relief; that one portion of it is nearer to him 
than another ; in a word, that it is solid. Now, by 
closing each eye in turn, the reader will find that 
one eye will see round one side of the object, and 
the other round the other side, two different impres- 
sions being obtained. Every solid object, therefore, 
is seen differently by the two eyes, and it has been 
found that the effect of solidity is produced by the 
combination of these different impressions in the 
mind. Two eyes are better than one, not merely 
because they give symmetry to the face, but because 
they act together in producing on the inner or 
mental eye, a perfect and instantaneous impression 
of the form and position of objects. 

This important truth has been revealed by the 
beautiful and well-known instrument called the 
stereoscope, which, however, is much better known 
than understood. Some account of this magic in- 
strument certainly merits a place amongst the fairy 
tales of science. 

The stereoscope, in its most popular form, is sim- 
ply a small wooden box, furnished with two lenses, 


like an opera-glass. A double picture, say a photo- 
graph of a statue, is placed at the bottom of the 
box, and viewed with both eyes, by means of the 
lenses. The effect is truly marvellous, for the de- 
sign immediately appears in relief the picture 
becomes a piece of sculpture ! This illusion is so 
perfect, and the means by which it is produced so 
simple, that we cannot wonder at the popularity 
which the stereoscope has so rapidly attained. 

The term stereoscope is derived from two words 
in the Greek language, the first signifying a solid 
body, and the latter vision; it may therefore be 
freely translated as "that which shows every object 
in relief." Our readers will admit that the name is 
a good one, and perfectly descriptive of the powers 
of the instrument. 

Let us now consider how the wonderful illusions 
of the stereoscope are effected. We shall not require 
diagrams to make our meaning clear, since every 
one must be familiar with the construction of the 
magic instrument. 

The two pieces of glass that are placed in the 
front of the stereoscope are wedge-shaped, that is 
to say, their outer edges are a little thicker than 
their inner edges. These glasses act like prisms, 
and by bending the rays of light that proceed from 
the double picture, they cause the two halves to 
combine, and appear as a single picture occupying a 
central position between the eyes. Two distinct 
images are thus formed in the eyes, but in conse- 


quence of the bending of the rays of light, they are 
projected upon similar parts of the two retinae, and 
seem to be produced by a single object. Whether 
the two impressions are made by the double picture 
or by a single solid, the same sensation is produced, 
as in either case the mind combines the two impres- 
sions into the idea of solidity. The stereoscope, 
therefore, enables us to give a true notion of the 
form and position of objects from two flat represen- 
tations on paper or glass ; in fact, we may see the 
objects quite as well as if they stood before us. 

Although the stereoscope was discovered some 
twenty years ago, it has only lately become popular. 
So long as mere drawings by hand were used as 
stereoscopic slides, only regular bodies, such as 
crystals and geometric solids, could be represented ; 
but now, by the aid of photography, we may obtain 
pictures of any natural or artistic objects. 

When we look at a double photograph in the 
stereoscope, the picture to the right is seen by the 
right eye only, and that to the left, by the left eye. 
The two pictures are taken from different points of 
view, and are exactly similar to the views we obtain 
of solid objects, by alternately closing the right and 
left eyes. There is, therefore, no longer any doubt 
as to the use of two eyes, since by the aid of photo- 
graphy we may obtain pictures similar to those 
which the eyes receive, and these pictures combine 
to produce the effect of solidity. 

We are indebted to Professor Wheatstone for the 


discovery of the stereoscope, a discovery which 
Herschel has truly characterized as " one of the most 
curious and beautiful for its simplicity in the entire 
range of experimental optics." The original form of 
the instrument has been considerably modified by 
Sir David Brewster, who may indeed be regarded as 
the inventor of the refracting or popular stereoscope. 

We will not attempt to describe the innumerable 
family groups, landscapes, portraits, and Alpine 
views, that photography has furnished for the stereo- 
scope. Our readers are doubtless familiar with 
them, as the stereoscope has become quite a fashion- 
able instrument, and has taken the place of the 
album upon almost every drawing-room table. 

Two eyes are unquestionably better than one, 
nevertheless persons with but one eye are able to 
see distinctly. This fact does not refute what we 
have said about double vision. A person with one 
eye judges of the relief of an object from the distri- 
bution of light and shade, but his perceptions are 
much less vivid than those of a person with two eyes. 
It has, moreover, been remarked that a one-eyed 
person when looking at a solid object is constantly 
changing the position of the head from side to side, 
and by this means he obtains with one eye the same 
result that is obtained by two eyes with the head 

Our readers will now understand why they have 
two eyes instead of one, and will be able to expound 
the mysteries of that magic spy-glass, the stereoscope. 

' ' Oh, what an endless work have I in hand, 
To count the sea's abundant progeny !" SPENSER. 

FORTUNATE youth! What would we not give for a 
glimpse of a live mermaid, especially if she hap- 
pened to be as beautiful as the submarine lady 
portrayed by our artist ! We do not wonder to see 
you peering over the rocks so earnestly, but we 
entreat you to be careful, lest you tumble into the 
water. The belle of the sea is prettily dressed in 
her robe of sea- weed, and the star-fish on her fore- 
head is a most becoming ornament. But how would 
you look in the sea with your clean blouse and 
collar all wet and limp, with your trousers shrank 
up to your knees, and your boots full of water? 
Held tight to the rock then, inquisitive youth, 
for we fear you would look a pitiable object as a 
sea-boy ! 

Would the reader like to take a peep at the home 
of the mermaid 1 If so, let him follow us in imagi- 
nation to the bottom of the sea. We cannot pro- 
mise him a sight of the mermaid herself, but we 


can show him some of the inhabitants of the deep 
that are scarcely less wonderful. Candidly speak- 
ing, we do not believe in the existence of the fair 
lady with the fishy tail; but for the sake of our 
fairy tale, we will assume that she does exist, but 
is so excessively shy that she makes a point of con- 
cealing herself at the approach of strangers. 

The mermaid's home is beneath the wave, but we 
must not suppose that it is situated at an unfathom- 
able depth in the ocean. The lady is far too fond 
of life and light to reside in a region beyond the 
reach of the genial influence of the sunbeam. De- 
pend upon it, she has selected some quiet bay, 
guarded by impassable rocks, for her habitation a 
bay whose waters are not too deep nor yet too 

Here is just such a bay as a mermaid might 
choose as a safe abode. Look how snugly the 
rocks shut it in on either side : a sea-nymph might 
pass her days here without fear of molestation. Let 
us walk to the end of yonder jutting rock. ~Now, 
if you wish to visit the mermaid's home, prepare for 
a dive, so one, two, three and in you go head 
foremost ! 

We are now safe on land ; not on dry land, be it 
understood, but on the floor of the sea, with a good 
many feet of water overhead. We have ceased to 
be human beings subject to death by drowning, and 
have become the heroes of a fairy tale whom the 
elements cannot harm. 


Looking around, we perceive a host of wonders. 
We are in a new world, whose plants and animals 
have no resemblance to those of the world we have 
just quitted. Dense forests of many-coloured algoe 
are outspread before us ; uncouth creatures crawl at 
our feet, and fairy-like forms flit around us. 

If we wish to obtain a correct impression of these 
submarine wonders, we must examine them sepa- 
rately in regular order. We will therefore confine 
our attention at present to the beautiful herbs 
that grow in the mermaid's garden, and the minia- 
ture trees of her parks and forests. 

This lovely group of algee, misnamed weeds, will 
afford us ample types of marine vegetation. One of 
these plants has broad leaves of a beautiful emerald- 
green, as thin as the finest cambric, and strangely 
puckered and folded at their edges.* The mermaid 
doubtless makes use of these delicate leaves in place 
of silk or muslin, unless indeed she eats them as a 
salad. Beside this flimsy plant we see a cluster of 
crimson leaves, some five or six inches long, and of 
a most graceful form.t The mermaid must take 
some pains to cultivate this herb, as its gorgeous 
colouring renders it a striking feature in her garden. 
Here is a tuft of what seems to be fine grass; here 
a group of rosy leaves; and here a tiny tree of 
a beautiful purple hue. 

In this little parterre we may find all the colours 
of the rainbow, and a wonderful variety of forms; 
* Green Laver or Ulva. t Delesseria 



some of the plants are cut into fringes, some are 
spread out like fans ; and others are divided into as 
many segments as are the graceful ferns of our 
woods. None of the marine plants in this group 
bear flowers, but nature has given them such bril- 
liant hues that this fact might easily have escaped 
our notice. 

Let us now glance at some of the mermaid's 
subjects, assuming the invisible lady to be the queen 
of these submarine realms. 

Among the "happy living things" of the sea, the 
fishes occupy the foremost rank, but we cannot 
bestow much time upon them, as we have to examine 
many less familiar creatures. But here comes one 
little fish whose strongly marked peculiarities at 
once attract our attention. His body is of a pale 
brown colour, with drab clouds, and patches of white 
specks. He looks a terrible fellow, in spite of his 
mild eyes, which are light blue, and closely resemble 
turquoises.* Now he hides beneath a broad frond 
of sea- weed, but we can see his wicked face project- 
ing from the covert. We will watch this gentleman 
closely, as we half suspect that there is some mis- 
chief brewing. Another fish now appears upon tt*e 
scene, a gentle and an unsuspicious fish to judge from 
his expression, a fish who would not hurt a fly 
unless he happened to be hungry. Now this simple- 
minded creature approaches the place where he with 
the turquoise eyes waits in ambush. Assassin-like, 
* The Black Goby. 


the blue-eyed monster darts from his hiding-place, 
seizes his victim by the tail, and swallows him alive ! 
Just look at the cannibal now ; his distended body 
has become almost black, and bears witness to the 
blackness of his crime ! How can the mermaid 
tolerate such a subject in her dominions ! 

As we stand on the sea-floor, the fishes that dart 
through the pale green atmosphere of water seem 
to be birds. That shoal overhead looks very like a 
flight of swallows; and these restless little fishes, 
who are perpetually quarrelling and chasing each 
other, remind us forcibly of sparrows. What grace 
and symmetry belong to the forms of these finny 
inhabitants of the deep, and what exquisite hues 
gleam from their resplendent coats of mail ! 

See, here come emissaries from the Court of 
Oberoii ! No, they are merely shrimps and prawns, 
though their transparency and lightness, their 
graceful gliding movements, and the long and 
slender wands they wave, entitle them to be consi- 
dered the fairies of the sea. Those who are only 
familiar with these creatures in their boiled condi- 
tion, can form no adequate conception of their ap- 
pearance during life. In the mermaid's garden 
these fairy-like beings take the place of moths and 

Look at this little fellow, who moves about by 
discharging jets of water from a small tube or 
siphon a mode of progression not uncommon 
among marine organisms. He hovers over a clear 


patch of sand, as though about to settle, while by 
means of his magic siphon he blows the sand from 
under him until a slight hollow is formed. Now he 
settles, but it is quite evident that his siphon is still 
at work, for the sand issues from all sides of his 
globiilar body in a little cloud, and he gradually 
sinks till nothing can be seen of him save his strag- 
gling arms and curious eyes. The mermaid has 
many expert miners in her service, but none to 
excel this cunning little well-sinker.* 

These submarine regions are thickly populated 
by wondrous beings so transparent that they can 
only be distinguished by the flashes of light that 
gleam from their surfaces. Their substance is gela- 
tinous, and, strange as it may appear, consists chiefly 
of sea- water. Let us now examine a few of these 
living bubbles with the superior powers of vision 
which we possess as heroes of a fairy tale. 

How can we doubt the existence of mermaids, 
when we find animals assuming the forms of 
umbrellas, goblets, and bells ! Look ! here comes a 
living umbrella, moving through the water by open- 
ing and shutting itself. Now, readeYjs^t flaps itself 
under your very nose, and you may inspect it nar- 
rowly. You will perceive, that it is rather an un- 
common sort of umbrella, as it has four sticks 
instead of one, and is furnished with a number of 
tendril-like appendages. You will also see that it 
is neither made of silk nor gingham, but of a deli- 
* The Cuttle. 


cate transparent jelly.* This living umbrella may 
be taken as a type of the numerous gelatinous 
parachutes, bells, vases, and cups that glide through 
the sea. 

But here is a little object which deserves a sepa- 
rate notice, for it bears no outward resemblance to 
the bell-shaped creatures, though closely related to 
them. It is not easy to distinguish the form of this 
living lump of jelly. Now you may see it, though, 
if you look closely as the light just catches its sur- 
face. See, it is a little egg-shaped ball of crystal, 
marked with longitudinal bands of the prismatic 
colours. Two long threads, that look like spun 
glass, may be seen depending from its exterior, and 
these threads, if examined attentively, will be found 
to be fringed with yet finer threads or tendrils. 
Now this creature vanishes, and we are left to 
wonder how so much beauty could be compressed 
into so small a compass !f 

Many of these gelatinous little creatures, which 
have been learnedly named Acalephce, are phospho- 
rescent, and at night they cause the sea to assume 
the appearance of liquid fire. How beautiful must 
be the mermaid's home, when illuminated by myriads 
of these living lamps ! 

Suppose we now take a peep at some of the 

creatures that dwell in the crannies of these jagged 

rocks and wander through these miniature forests. 

We shall find them to be quite as remarkable 

* Pelagia. f Cydippe. 


as the free-swimming inhabitants of these submarine 
regions. The members of the great crab family 
are very conspicuous objects. They scuttle about in 
all directions, and their little bony eyes squint at 
us from out of every cranny. There goes a monster 
belonging to the edible species take care of his 
formidable nippers, or perhaps you will have cause 
to repent your visit to the home of the mermaid. 
Now he passes edgewise through a narrow chink in 
the rocks, and so disappears. We are not sorry to 
be rid of such an ugly customer. 

Look at that funny little fellow sitting on that 
large stone. He is a crab with some points that 
suggest the notion of a lobster fringed swimming 
plates on the last joint of the body, large foot-jaws, 
and very long feelers. Now he jumps off the stone, 
and by flapping his tail, swims just enough to 
enable himself to reach the sandy bottom slantwise, 
instead of going straight down like some of his 
clumsier brethren. He now crawls about the sea- 
floor, evidently in search ofsomething, and now he 
disappears beneath a loose stohe. He does not want 
much space, for he is as flat and thin as if he had 
been trodden upon. 

The naturalist has brought to light some strange 
facts illustrative of the domestic economy of this 
little crab. He usually clings to the under side of 
some flat stone or ledge of rock, and takes in the food 
that is brought to his door. His long feelers are 
constantly groping about for provender, which he 


fishes in with his outer foot-jaws. Each of these 
jaws is like a sickle, composed of five joints beset 
with parallel bristles. When the jaw is straight- 
ened, the bristles stand apart and let the water 
flow freely between them ; when the joints are 
bent to a curve, the bristles overlap and form a net 
or hair spoon. This net is the more perfect because 
each bristle itself is feathered with two rows of 
hair. After a haul, the little fisherman picks what 
he likes to eat out of his net, and casts again. He 
throws his net out, with the claws extended, and 
the meshes consequently open, so that all rejected 
particles are washed away ; then he again makes for 
himself a spoon wherewith to pick up victuals. 

In addition to his nippers this crab has four 
pairs of legs ; but only three pairs are at first 
sight visible. The fourth is a very tiny pair, 
folded down in a groove beneath the edges of the 
shell. Each of these little legs has at the end a 
pair of fingers and a little brush of hairs. With 
the two brushes it scrubs and cleanses its whole 
body, and with the two pairs of fingers each being 
more properly comparable to a finger and thumb 
it picks off any dirt that cannot be removed by 

But who is that long-legged little gentleman with 
the crusty and prickly body? He is another mem- 
ber of the prolific crab family, and is perhaps one 
of the most valuable servants in the mermaid's em- 
* The Porcelain Crab. 


ploy. He fulfils the important duties of a sca- 
venger, and takes care that no decaying vegetable 
or animal matter shall remain long enough to be 
prejudicial to the purity of the sea. Instead of 
carting away the offal, this extraordinary little 
fellow crams it into his stomach, and appears to 
think it peculiarly palatable.* 

Look at those shells that are moving about so 
clumsily among the pebbles. They are the habita- 
tions of the soft-tailed crabs, who being unprovided 
with defensive armour are forced to seek shelter in the 
empty shells of different mollusca. There is a toler- 
ably large specimen of these creatures inhabiting a 
whelk-shell. Look how awkwardly his claws, legs, 
and feelers loll out of the mouth of the shell ; you 
would almost think that such a strange bunch of 
limbs wouldbe utterly useless to the imprisoned crea- 
ture. Here comes another, dragging a still larger 
shell after him, so prepare to witness a battle, for 
these creatures are terribly pugnacious. Now they 
meet, andNa^gin to fight in earnest, tossing their 
legs and claws about in a most excited manner. 
Look how clumsily they tumble over each other, and 
you must confess that a more comical duel never 
took place either above or below the wave. But see, 
the larger crab appears to have got the worst of the 
fight, for he is scrambling off as fast as his legs can 
carry him. These humorous creatures must afford 
the mermaid considerable amusement, indeed, it is 
* The Spider Crab. 


highly probable that they are the jesters of her 

So many strange forms meet our vision in these 
submarine realms, that we are puzzled as to which 
we ought to select for examination. Look at all 
these richly-coloured and gracefully-formed shells ; 
each has its peculiar tenant, about which many won- 
derful things might be related. The shells, though 
beautiful themselves, are not to be compared with 
some of their inhabitants. Look at that periwinkle, 
for instance, who is now devouring the tender 
shoots of that plant, you must own that his zebra 
stripes and netted markings are exceedingly orna- 
mental. But the periwinkle is not nearly so attrac- 
tive as some of the fleshy creatures that may be 
seen protruding from their shells, and which have 
the richest hues imaginable. 

Again, just glance at those sea-si ugs.f How can 
we describe their various forms and colours ? Here 
is one of a bright lemon colour, with a beautiful 
plume of feathers springing from his back ; here 
another of a pearly white, wearing numerous club- 
like ornaments ; and here a third, of a dingy grey, 
but furnished with a pretty little bouquet of flowers. 
The reader will perhaps be surprised when we tell 
him that these plumes, and clubs, and flowers enable 
the sea-slugs to breathe ; yet such is the fact, for 
all these ornamental appendages perform the same 
functions as our lungs. 

* The Hermit Crabs. t The Nudibranch Mollusca. 


Here is a curious creature, closely resembling 
those we have just examined, in form and substance, 
but belonging to a totally different class of beings. 
It looks like a milk-white slug, but if we inspect it 
carefully, we shall find that it is provided with five 
rows of delicate sucking arms, by means of which 
it clings firmly to the surface of the rock. It also 
has a chocolate-coloured head, tipped with a ring of 
feathery gills of white and primrose. Those natu- 
ralists who have studied the habits of marine crea- 
tures, inform us that this white slug will throw 
away its inside when irritated, the body remaining 
but an empty sac ; yet in a month or so the 
creature will begin to eat as greedily as ever, a 
fresh set of digestive organs having grown in the 

Our artist has furnished his mermaid with a couple 
of star-shaped ornaments, and here we may see 
plenty of similar stars in motion. Whether we 
regard their symmetrical forms or their brilliant 
hues, we must admit these living stars to be the 
most remarkable inhabitants of these realms of 
wonder. Even this dtisky red onet possesses great 
beauty, though its flaming relatives throw it into 
the shade. You see it has five broad rays, but you 
must not suppose that these rays fulfil the office of 
legs, for the creature's legs, if so we may call them, 
are thousands of tiny suckers, protruding through 

* The Holothuria. f Five-finger Star. 


holes in its under surface. Another member of the 
starry family may be seen clinging to the smooth 
surface of yonder rock, a twelve-rayed sun of the 
richest scarlet.* Here is another, a pentagonal 
disc of scarlet and orange ;t and here again another, 
a little flower-like disc with five long prickly arms 
that move about in a graceful serpentine manner. : 
The last-named creature is extremely sensitive to* 
insult, and were you to handle him too roughly, he 
would probably commit deliberate suicide by break- 
ing himself into little bits. 

But how did that little hedgehog find his way 
hither? Examine him closely, and you will see 
that he is not an ordinary hedgehog. He is cer- 
tainly covered over with prickles, but these instead 
of being of a dark brown are of a pretty violet 
colour. Again, his form is much more regular than 
that of his terrestrial namesake, and he has neither 
head nor legs. He is a distant relative of the living 
stars, though you would hardly think so, judging 
from his external appearance. 

Look at these stony tubes twisted so curiously 
into a tangled group. These are the habitations of 
some of the mermaid's subjects. See! from the 
mouth of one of these tubes a conical stopper of a 
bright scarlet colour emerges, and now a row of 
feathery objects which slowly spread themselves out 

* Sun- star. t Bird's-foot Star. Brittle-star. 

$ Echinus, or Sea-urchin. 


into an elegant scarlet plume. Now another little 
stopper makes its appearance; another and another ; 
and now each tube is crowned with its lovely tuft 
of feathers. Presto ! they have disappeared, plumes 
and stoppers vanished like magic as a large fish 
passed over them.* 

This rock is studded over with tiny conical shells, 
each of which contains a living creature, quite as 
wonderful as the tube-inhabiting worm. If you 
make good use of your " microscopic eye," you will 
see that each little shell opens at the tip, and that a 
delicate white feathery object is alternately pro- 
truded and withdrawn through the aperture. This 
tiny white feather is a veritable casting net, and 
every time it is spread out it catches some invisible 
particles of food.t 

We have glanced at a few of the Mermaid's sub- 
jects, to count them all would indeed be '' an end- 
less task." In another chapter we shall describe at 
length some of the marvellous flowers that bloom 
in these submarine regions. Would that we could 
introduce the reader to the mermaid herself, but we 
sadly fear that she will never figure in the fairy 
tales of science. We are rather inclined to think 
that she ceased to exist with the dragons and griffins 
of that marvellous age known as "once upon a time." 
But perhaps she does exist after all, and only keeps 
out of the way of the naturalist, for fear he should 

* Serpulse. t Balanus, or Acorn-shell. 


bestow upon her some hard Latin name. However 
this may be, it is quite certain that the naturalist 
has never caught a glipse of this mysterious being, 
though he has discovered many objects in the sea 
quite as extraordinary. And now, reader, we will 
once more become air-breathers, and bid farewell 
to the Mermaid's Home. 

" Here, too, were living flowers, 
Which, like a bud compacted, 
Their purple cups contracted ; 
And now in open blossom spread, 
Stretch 'd, like green anthers, many a seeking head." 


THE flowers of the sea far surpass those of the land 
in splendid and gorgeous colouring. In the " gardens 
of N"ereus" there are anemones of the richest crim- 
son, purple, and orange; chrysanthemums, beauti- 
fully striped and variegated ; carnations, whose petals 
are exquisitely cut and fringed ; and dahlias, so per- 
fect in form that they could not fail to win the 
admiration of enthusiastic flower-fanciers. 

But these flowers are not only beautiful. Nature 
has endowed them with wonderful powers. They 
fold and expand their petals at will; some of them 
can move from place to place; and others are so 
peculiarly sensitive, that the slightest touch will 
cause them to shrink into shapeless lumps of jelly. 

What are these extraordinary beings? Are they 
plants or animals, or do they stand upon some de- 
bateable ground between the two great kingdoms of 


organic nature? In ancient times they were doubt- 
less regarded as sea-nymphs metamorphosed into 
flowers ; but we fear that this opinion would have 
little weight in the present age of science. Expound 
the riddle, good naturalist, and tell us all about 
these animated flowers ! 

Well, to put an end to the reader's suspense, we 
will at once inform him that these magic flowers are 
true animals. Nor will this statement surprise him, 
since he has already seen what marvellous forms 
may be endowed with animal life. He has seen 
living plumes, living stars, and living umbrellas, all 
of which are quite as wonderful as these living 

The sea-anemones are by far the most conspicuous 
of the wild-flowers of the deep, and we will there- 
fore give them the precedence in our examination. 
If we wander about the sea-beach at low tide, we 
may find plenty of these creatures attached to the 
rocks and stones left bare by the receding waves. 
The commonest are those known as the smooth 
anemones,* which seem, when out of the water, to 
be mere knobs of jelly. On touching them you find 
that they are tough and leathery, though you would 
never have imagined so from their appearance. 
These little knobs are variously coloured, but diffe- 
rent shades of green and red are their prevailing 

When the sea comes up and covers the anemones 
* Actinia Mesembryanthemum. 


they assume the most lovely shapes. Each lump of 
jelly expands into a beautiful flower, having some- 
what the form of a chrysanthemum, but a far more 
brilliant colour. When fully expanded, each flower 
displays a ring of turquoise beads, whose pure blue 
forms a beautiful contrast to the crimson, purple, 
and orange tints of the petals. 

These jewelled flowers are not to be compared 
with their aristocratic relations, the thick-horned 
anemones.* Words can convey no idea of the 
beauty of these creatures. They are much larger 
than the last species, and some of them, when ex- 
panded, are five or six inches across. Their petals, 
which are very thick in proportion to their length, 
are delicately transparent, and prettily striped and 
ringed with various brilliant colours. These ani- 
mated flowers have been well likened to quilled 
dahlias; but to complete the simile, we must sup- 
pose that the terrestrial flowers have petals of 

The daisy -anemone f is another beautiful species. 
They may be found in abundance upon some coasts, 
in the tide-pools and hollows. In the sunshine of 
a fair day they expand beautifully, and you may see 
them studding the face of the rock just beneath the 
surface of the water, from the size of a shilling to 
that of a crown-piece. If you touch one of these 
sensitive daisies, its circular disc will at once begin 
to curl and pucker at its margin, and soon take the 
* Bunodes Crassicornis. t Actinia Bellis. 



form of a cup; if further annoyed, the rim of this 
cup will contract more and more, until it closes. 
The diameter of the disc is nearly four times that 
of the body at the point from which it expands. 
The petals are very small, but numerous, and are 
ai'ranged on the disc in about six rows. As for 
colouring, the daisy is not surpassed by any flower 
of the deep; for though its tints are less brilliant 
than those of the living chrysanthemums and 
dahlias, they are so beautifully blended one into 
another, that they cause the little creature to 
appear quite as lovely as its flaring cousins. The 
upper surface of the disc is of a rich umber brown, 
merging into lavender-colour towards the edge ; the 
petals brown, blotched and speckled with white, 
and the base white, passing into pink, then lilac, 
and becoming purple as it joins the disc. 

But of all the flowers that bloom in the sea, per- 
haps the plumose anemone* is the most magnificent. 
It is much taller than any of the creatures we have 
described, and excels them in delicacy of colouring ; 
pure white, pearly grey, or faint rose, taking the 
place of scarlet, olive, or brown. It is, indeed, a 
creature of sxirpassing loveliness, and has justly 
been styled the maiden queen of all the beautiful 

The sea-anemones are terribly voracious, devour- 
ing everything that comes within their reach. We 
are not romancing, dear reader, these flowers of the 
* Actinia Dianthus. 


sea have wonderful appetites, and are endowed with 
digestive powers that the human gourmand might 
well covet. If we examine the internal structure 
of these anomalous beings, we shall be able to ac- 
count for their voracity. 

A sea-anemone may be likened to a double bag ; 
the outer bag forming the exterior of the animal, 
and the inner one its stomach ; the intervening 
space being divided into numerous chambers, by 
vertical partitions, which pass ill a radiating direc- 
tion between the outer surface of the stomach and 
the general integument. The arms or tentacles of 
the anemone, which we have hitherto spoken of as 
petals, are hollow, and communicate with the in- 
ternal chambers. These chambers are always filled 
with water, and by the contraction of the walls, 
water is forced into the hollow tentacles. The ten- 
tacles are also provided with small orifices at the 
extremity, that can be opened or closed by the 
animal. Water is taken in by these orifices, so as 
to distend the radiating chambers and tentacles, and 
is ejected with considerable violence through the 
same apertures whenever the creature is alarmed. 
The tentacles are placed in rows round the mouth, 
which is usually circular or oval. 

Although the anemone is a mere membranous 
bag distended with sea-water, it is endowed with 
powers that render it more than a match for many 
animals occupying a much higher position in the 
scale of being. No sooner does a small fish, a crab, 


or a shelled mollusk come within reach of its ten- 
tacles, than it is seized by them, and drawn to the 
gaping mouth of the greedy flower, the tentacles 
closing upon it on all sides. After awhile the ten- 
tacles again expand, and an empty crust or shell is 
ejected through the mouth, the nourishing contents 
having been mysteriously extracted in the stomach 
of the anemone. 

And now, abstemious reader, can you wonder at 
the voracity of these strange creatures ? If you 
had a stomach of proportional capacity, a mouth 
equally extensive, and a hundred arms constantly 
picking up dainties, depend upon it you would be 
quite as voracious ! 

The anemone attaches itself to the rock by means 
of a sucking base, but it seldom remains long in the 
same place. In travelling it pushes forward one 
poi-tion of the base, and having fixed it firmly, 
draws the remaining portion after it, a mode of 
progression very similar to that adopted by the 
snail. There are many more wonderful things con- 
nected with the sea-anemones which we cannot stop 
to consider, as we must now pass on to another 
kind of living flower. 

The madrepore* is allied to the anemones, but 
differs from them in many important points. This 
beautiful little flower of the sea has a stony skele- 
ton, consisting of a number of thin chalky plates 
standing up edgewise, and arranged in a radiating 
* Caryophyllia Smithii. 


manner round a low centre. We have informed 
the reader that the interior of an anemone is 
divided into numerous chambers by perpendicular 
veils of membrane. If he will now imagine that 
every one of these membranes is turned into stone, 
he will understand the formation of the madrepore's 
skeleton, and its relation to the soft investing flesh. 

Mr. Gosse, the naturalist, to whom we are in- 
debted for many striking facts relating to the beau- 
tiful inhabitants of the sea, has given a charming 
description of the living madrepore in one of his 
pleasant books. " Let it," he says, " after being 
torn from the rock, recover its equanimity ; then 
you will see a pellucid gelatinous flesh emerging 
from between the plates, and little exquisitely 
formed and coloured tentacles, with white clubbed 
tips fringing the sides of the cup-shaped cavity in 
the centre, across which stretches the oval disc, 
marked with a star of some rich and brilliant 
colour, surrounding the central mouth, a slit with 
white crenated lips, like the orifice of one of those 
elegant cowry-shells which we put upon our mantle- 
pieces. The mouth is always more or less promi- 
nent, and can be protruded and expanded to an 
astonishing extent. The space surrounding the lips 
is commonly fawn-colour or rich chesnut brown ; 
the star, or vandyked circle, rich red, pale vermilion, 
and sometimes the most brilliant emerald green, as 
brilliant as the gorget of a humming-bird." 

The madrepores are quite as greedy as their 


wandering friends the anemones, and the presence 
of food stimulates them to more active efforts and 
the display of greater intelligence than we should 
give them credit for. Mr. Gosse relates a very 
amusing anecdote about feeding a madrepore. He 
once put a minute spider, as large as a pin's head, 
into the water, pushing it down with a bit of grass 
to a coral, which was lying with partially exposed 
tentacles. The instant the insect touched the tip 
of the tentacle it adhered, and was drawn in with 
the surrounding tentacles between the plates, near 
their inward margin. Watching the animal with 
a lens, he saw the small mouth slowly open, and 
move over to that side, the lips gaping unsymme- 
trically ; while at the same time, by a movement as 
imperceptible as that of the hour-hand of a watch, 
the tiny prey was carried along between the plates 
towards the corner of the mouth. The latter, how- 
evei', moved most, and at length reached the edges 
of the plates, and gradually took in and closed upon 
the insect ; after which it slowly returned to its 
usual place in the centre of the disc. After some 
quarter of an hour Mr. Gosse caught a house-fly, 
and taking hold of its wings with a pair of pliers, 
plunged it under water. The tentacles held it at 
the first contact as before, and drew it down upon 
the mouth, which instantly began to gape in expec- 
tation. But the struggles of the fly's legs perhaps 
tickled the coral's tentacles in an unwonted man- 
ner, for they shrank away, and presently released 


the intended victim, which rose to the surface like 
a cork ; only, however, to become the breakfast of 
an expectant daisy, which was much too wise to 
reject or let slip so dainty a prey. The poor coral 
evidently regretted the untoward necessity of let- 
ting it go, for his mouth kept gaping for some time 
after the escape.* 

The animated flowers of the tropical seas far sur- 
pass those that bloom on our own shores. In the 
Red Sea, for instance, branching corals, madrepores, 
anemones of the most brilliant hues, flourish in such 
luxuriance as to form a submarine garden of unpa- 
ralleled magnificence. " Where is the paradise of 
flowers," exclaims a German naturalist, " that can 
rival in variety and beauty these living wonders of 
the ocean ?" 

And these gardens of Nereus, through the intro- 
duction of the aquarium, may be brought into our 
homes. The brilliant and sparkling hues of the 
marine creatures will prove equally attractive in 
the tiny vase and in the boundless ocean, the more 
so as we may be fettered to bricks and mortar, shut 
in our town prison, or hemmed round by stern 
duties which we cannot elude ; so the deep sea may 
roar a bluff greeting, but we hear it not ! Let us 
consider how one of these mimic oceans may be 
formed. We procure a tank of plate glass, and 
cover its slate bottom with a layer of sand from 
the sea-beach, or even well-washed river sand. But 
* A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast. 


perhaps the best of all materials for forming a bot- 
tom are broken granite and coarse shingle. Hock- 
work must now be introduced, so as to provide 
shady nooks for those delicate creatures that shun 
the light or are of a retiring disposition. We may 
fashion the rock-work into a rude arch, or three 
large pieces of stone may be built up in the form of 
a table or druidical cromlech. 

The aquarium having been filled with sea-water 
is now ready for stocking with marine plants and 
animals. The plants render the water fit for the 
maintenance of animal life, while the animals check 
the too rapid increase of vegetation. Thus, the 
success of our aquarium will depend upon the proper 
balance of animal and vegetable life. We select 
the green and red weeds, as the brown and olive 
are apt to discolour the water. Sea-plants have no 
roots, but adhere by minute discs to the surface of 
the rock ; a piece of stone has accordingly to be 
knocked off with each plant, in order that it may 
be removed to our glass tank. 

Some days should be allowed to elapse before the 
animals are introduced, so that the plants may have 
time to impregnate the water with their minute 
spores. Among the finny inhabitants of the mer- 
maid's home the little mullets rank first, then the 
blennies and gobies, but many other kinds of fish 
may find a place in our mimic ocean. The common 
periwinkle is essential to the aquarium, as it fulfils 
the duties of a scavenger, and carefully removes the 


green film that sometimes forms upon the glass. 
The star-fishes, crabs, serpulse, and the prawns 
are favourites with aquarian naturalists ; but the 
lovely sea-anemones are the crowning glories of the 
glass tank. We must carefully remove all dead 
plants and animals from our aquarium. It is in* 
dispensable that there should be a free access of 
light, but we must not expose our tank to the full 
glare of the sun's rays, or the water will become 
heated, and its delicate inhabitants will surely die. 
These tanks require constant attention, but their 
beauty will more than repay its for any amount of 
trouble. They have been beautifully described as 
" flower gardens which never wither, fairy lakes of 
perpetual calm, which no storm blackens." 

(i There is a difference between a grub and butterfly ; yet 
Your butterfly was a grub." Coriolanus. 

ONCE upon a time an aged butterfly, with wings all 
crumpled and torn, crawled up the stem of a willow, 
and seated himself on the nearest leaf. 

"My last moments are drawing near," said he, "but 
I do not repine, for life has become a burden to me. 
My wings are useless, my joints stiff and rheumatic, 
and my antennae have long since lost their exquisite 
sensibility. It is quite evident that my flying days 
are over, but so much happiness has fallen to my 
share, that I have no right to complain." The but- 
terfly had scarcely finished this soliloquy, when a 
large tiger-moth alighted on a leaf close by. 

" Ah, my friend !" exclaimed the moth, " I am 
truly glad to see you ; I have not many hours to live, 
and I wish to make you my executor. Do not 
start, my friend, I am old and decrepit, and you 
shall see me meet death with becoming resigna- 

The butterfly smiled sadly, and declined the 


proffered executorsMp, explaining to the venerable 
tiger-moth that he himself was about to die. 

Now, by one of those wonderful coincidences 
peculiar to fairy tales, a dragon-fly, a gnat, and two 
small flies, all bowed down by weight of years, 
settled in the neighbourhood of the two lepidoptera.* 
After much mutual condolence, the six insects 
began to quarrel about their respective adventures, 
each bragging that he had seen far more wonderful 
things than had any of his companions. The 
dragon-fly became very much excited, and though 
very feeble, he clashed his mandibles together in a 
manner that filled the smaller insects with dismay. 
The butterfly, who was an insect of a very superior 
turn of mind, put an end to this disagreeable scene. 

" My friends," he exclaimed, in a solemn voice, 
" is it wise to waste the few short hours that remain 
to us in vain discussion ? Would it not be more 
becoming in old insects like us to sit down quietly, 
and relate our adventures without quarrelling 1 
Depend upon it, Nature has not formed us dif- 
ferently, and endowed us with distinct faculties, for 
a mere freak, but because we may be better fitted 
to enjoy the sweets of life in our separate spheres. 
Consider, my dear dragon, what pitiable objects you 
and I would be were we to exchange wings ! 
How could you support your long body with my 
painted wings, and how could I work your gauzy 

* The order Lepidoptera, or scaly wings, includes butter- 
flies and moths. 


pinions with my feeble muscles 1 Instead of boast- 
ing about your superior strength and prowess, you 
ought to accept your gifts with a humble thankful- 
ness, as you must be aware that you are 'far inferior 
in point of intellect to the sober bee, or the tiny 

" Do not be too hard upon me, Mr. Butterfly," 
said the great insect ; " I own myself in the wrong, 
and am quite willing to adopt any suggestion you 
may make with regard to the manner of passing 
our last hours." The two little flies on hearing 
their dreaded enemy speak so rationally, instantly 
recovered their self-possession, and the gnat actually 
ventured within the reach of his formidable man- 

" Well, then," said the butterfly, " let each relate 
his history in as few words as possible, describing 
the metamorphoses he has undergone, and the won- 
derful things that have fallen within the sphere of 
his observation." 

This proposition was received with unanimous 
approbation, and it was speedily determined that 
the butterfly should tell the first story. 

We will now lay before the reader a true report 
of the conversation that ensued, adding such ex- 
planatory remarks as may be necessary to make the 
speeches of the insects intelligible. 

" I am generally known as the cabbage-butterfly," 
said the first speaker, " and although my wings are 
now in a very dilapidated condition, I think you 


must admit that the dark spots upon the white 
ground produce a very pretty effect. I need not 
tell you that I originally came from an egg, which 
my maternal parent, guided by an unerring instinct, 
had deposited upon a leaf capable of affording me 
proper and sufficient nourishment in my caterpillar 
state. And a beautiful little egg it was, shaped like 
a flask, marked with fifteen ribs, converging to- 
wards the smaller end, and having a delicate yellow 

" I was a very little fellow when I made my 
escape from the egg, but having a tremendous appe- 
tite I grew rapidly, and soon became a handsome 
caterpillar. Nature had furnished me with sixteen 
feet, and had dressed me in a coat of bluish grey, 
having a bright yellow line down the back, and 
another on each side. I am fairly shocked when 
I think of my voracity, for I frequently devoured 
double my own weight of cabbage in twenty-four 
hours. At length, when I had attained my full size, 
I felt that I was about to undergo a wonderful meta- 
morphosis ; accordingly I stole away from the plant 
on which I had been feeding, and found a secluded 
corner where I could perform unmolested the 
tedious and painful operation of wriggling out of 
my skin. 

" Having thrown off my grey coat, and with it my 
sixteen legs, I became a chrysalis* a mere mummy, 

* A Greek term, signifying golden, applied to pupae on ac- 
count of the golden lustre which they sometimes exhibit. 


in fact, having neither limbs, eyes, nor mouth. My 
second metamorphosis was even more extraordinary 
than this. I broke through the mummy cloth as 
a perfect insect. My wings were at first moist and 
shrunken, but in an hour or so they spread out to 
their full extent. I will not attempt to describe 
the rapture which I experienced in my first flight 
through the air. My former life seemed to be an 
ugly dream ; and as I flew from flower to flower, 
sipping ambrosial sweets, I could hardly realize 
the fact that I had once been a crawling caterpillar, 
with an insatiable craving for cabbage. The 
longest life must have an end ; and you now see 
me patiently awaiting death or some new meta- 
morphosis of which my instinct gives me no 

The reader will doubtless be astonished to hear 
that the butterfly exists in the caterpillar, and has 
been detected in it by expert anatomists. " In 
order," says Swammerdam, "to discover plainly 
that a butterfly is enclosed and hidden in the skin 
of the caterpillar, the following operation must be 
performed. One must kill a full-grown caterpillar, 
tie a thread to its body, and dip it for a minute 
or two into boiling water. The oxiter skin will, 
after this, easily separate, because the fluids be- 
tween the two skins are by this means rare- 
fied and dilated, and therefore they break and 
detach both the vessels and the fibres whei'ewith 
they were united together. By this means the 


outer skin of the caterpillar, being separated, may- 
be easily drawn off from the butterfly which is con- 
tained and folded up in it. This done, it is clearly 
and distinctly seen that, within this skin of the cater- 
pillar, a perfect and real bxitterfly was hidden, and 
therefore the skin of the caterpillar must be con- 
sidered only as an outer garment, containing in it 
parts belonging to the nature of a butterfly, which 
have grown under its defence by slow degrees, in 
like manner as other sensitive bodies increase by 

" But as theselimbs of the biitterfly which lieunder 
the skin of a caterpillar cannot without great diffi- 
culty be discovered, unless by a person accustomed to 
such experiments because they are then very soft, 
tender, and small, and are, moreover, complicated or 
folded together, and enclosed in some membranous 
covering it is therefore necessary to defer the 
operation just now proposed until the several 
parts of the butterfly become somewhat more con- 
spicuous than at first, and are more increased and 
swelled under the skin by the force of the intruded 
blood and aqueous humour. This is known to be 
the case when the caterpillar ceases to eat, and its 
skin on each side of the thorax, near under the 
head, is then observed to be more and more elevated 
by the increasing and swelling limbs, and shows 
the appearance of two pairs of prominent tubercles." 
Before this beautiful discovery was made the wildest 
theories were propounded to explain insect meta- 


When the butterfly had finished his story, the 
tiger-moth addressed his friends in the following 
manner : " I fear that my history will afford you 
but little interest, as I have undergone a series of 
changes of precisely the same character as those 
which have just been described by our friend. In 
my youthful days I was quite as voracious as the 
butterfly, but my favourite food was the nettle. 
My body was covered with long hairs of a dark- 
brown colour. This woolly coat was of immense 
service to me ; for besides keeping me warm, it saved 
me many a bruise by bi-eaking my fall when I tum- 
bled off a leaf or branch. Before changing into a 
chrysalis, I spun for myself a snug little silken 
hammock, in which I might repose in peace until 
my final metamorphosis into a moth. There, I 
have finished my brief narrative, and am now long- 
ing to hear the dragon-fly's story, as I suspect it 
will be very wonderful." 

" My early days," said the dragon-fly, " were 
spent in the water. I was then furnished with six 
feet, but I did not use them for walking so much as 
for capturing my prey. I moved through the water 
by means of a wonderful hydraulic engine, which 
nature had given me. With this engine I was able 
to eject a stream of water to the distance of several 
inches ; and this jet propelled me through the water, 
in consequence of its being resisted by the station- 
ary mass of the fluid behind. I was the terror of 
all the inhabitants of the pond, for T was dreadfully 
L 2 


rapacious, devouring every living thing that came 
within my reach. In surprising my prey, I ap- 
proached it very stealthily, and pounced upon it 
suddenly. I was so artful, that insects, and even 
small fishes, found it difficult to elude my attacks. 

" My first metamorphosis was inconsiderable, as 
my appearance underwent very little alteration, and 
I still retained my six legs, and had the same car- 
nivorous propensities as formerly. At length I felt 
that the term of my aquatic existence had expired, 
and I therefore crawled up the stem of a water- 
plant into the air. Having selected a dry spot, I 
pushed my sharp claws into the soft stem, and 
awaited my final transformation. By the swelling 
of the upper part of my body, the outer skin was 
greatly distended, and was eventually rent asunder 
on the back of the head and shoulders. Through 
this opening I escaped as a perfect fly, leaving the 
empty slough fixed to the aquatic plant. Old age 
has now come upon me, and I require no further 
nourishment; but I must confess that I never lost 
my rapacious instincts. Instead of seeking an 
innocent nutriment in the pulp of fruits, or the 
nectar of flowers, I hovered in the air only to pounce 
upon other insects and crush them with my powerful 
mandibles. I have exterminated innumerable gnats 
and flies in my latter days, and have even caused 
the death of several moths and butterflies." 

This confession so alarmed the gnat, that he flew 
at once to another leaf, so as to be at a safe distance 


from the splendid blue monster, for whom he had 
hitherto entertained so little fear. " Do not run 
away!" exclaimed the dragon-fly, in a very jocular 
tone. " I shall not eat you until I have heard your 
story, provided you sit still j but if you attempt to 
leave this tree, I shall be very much offended, and 
will not answer for the consequences." 

" O, sir !" exclaimed the gnat, " how could you 
suppose that I should run away from you, the 
handsomest, the best, and the most magnanimous 
insect that ever breathed ? I moved from the leaf 
upon which you are sitting, because I felt my own 
un worthiness so keenly, and feared that my presence 
might cause you some uneasiness. If you would 
like to hear the story of my life, I shall be most 
proud to relate it to you, and to the other illus- 
trious insects that are here assembled. 

" I was originally produced from a tiny egg, 
shaped like a bottle. My mother knew that her 
offspring would pass the greater portion of their 
time in water, and she therefore deposited her eggs 
upon the surface of a pond. Now, as each egg was 
heavy enough to sink if dropped into water, she 
glued some three hundred of them together into the 
form of a boat, which floated so safely that the most 
violent agitation of the water could not sink it ; 
and, what was still more extraordinary, it never 
became filled with water, even though exposed to 
the heavy rains. When hatched, I took the form 
of a minute, whitish, semi-transparent grub. I 


usually swam near the surface of the water, with 
my head downwards and my tail in the air for my 
breathing organs were situated in the tail, and not 
along the sides, as in caterpillars. In course of time 
I underwent a semi-transformation, like that of our 
noble friend the dragon, and ten days after I broke 
through the skin that covered me, and winged my 
way through the air." 

The reader would probably like to hear how the 
gnat escapes from its envelope, without wetting its 
wings. The most important, and indeed indispen- 
sable part of the mechanism, is the maintaining of 
its upright position while extricating itself from the 
skin. The envelope, as it is thrown off, forms a 
life -boat, and supports the gnat until it gets its 
wings set at liberty and trimmed for flight. The 
body of the insect serves this little boat for a mast. 
" When the naturalist," says Reaumur, " observes 
how deep the prow of the tiny boat dips into the 
water, he becomes anxious for the fate of the little 
mariner, particularly if a breeze ripple the surface, 
for the least agitation of the air will waft it rapidly 
along, since its body performs the duty of a sail as 
well as of a mast ; but as it bears a much greater 
proportion to the little bark than the largest sail 
does to a ship, it appears in great danger of being 
upset, and once laid on its side all is over. I have 
sometimes seen the surface of the water covered 
with the bodies of gnats which had perished in this 
way ; but for the most part all terminates favour- 


ably, and the danger is instantly over." When the 
gnat has extricated all but the tail, it stretches out 
its two fore-legs, and then the middle pair, bending 
them down to feel for the water, upon which it is 
able to walk as upon dry land, the only aquatic 
faculty which it retains after having winged its way 
above the element where it spent the first stages of 
its existence. 

The larger of the two flies came forward as soon 
as the gnat had done speaking, and gracefully waving 
his antennae, addressed the assembled insects as fol- 
lows : " I am a water-fly, and, like the last two 
speakers, I spent my youth at the bottom of a pond. 
Having a very soft body, which required some pro- 
tection from the rapacity of fishes and carnivorous 
insects, I enclosed myself in a case formed of bits of 
straw and wood, pebbles, and tiny shells bound 
together by silken threads, which I spun from my 
mouth. While I remained in the grub state, this 
case afforded me sufficient protection ; but as soon 
as I felt a change approaching which I knew would 
render me helpless and inactive, I thought it advi- 
sable to contrive additional security. I therefore 
wove a silken grating at the entrance of my little 
gallery. This grating was marvellously strong, for 
I crossed and recrossed the threads until a thickish 
circular plate of brown silk was formed, which 
became as hard as gum. Of course I left a number 
of openings in this plate, for the purpose of breath- 
ing. In this case I reposed in peace until just before 


my final metamorphosis, when I gnawed my way 
through the grating with a pair of mandibles spe- 
cially provided for that one object. I then swam 
to the surface, and underwent my change into a 
perfect insect." 

" It is my turn now," said the other fly, a tiny 
creature with a black body and yellow legs ; " and 
although I am so small, I think I may safely say that 
I have led a stranger life than any of you. I did not 
pass my time, when in my caterpillar state, in looking 
out for food; yet I lived on the fat of the land. I 
am the dreaded ichneumon-fly, and the egg from 
which I was produced was deposited by my mother 
in the soft body of a cabbage-caterpillar, the brother 
probably of our friend here with the ragged wings. 
My kind parent settled upon the caterpillar's back, 
and pierced the skin in about thirty places, deposit- 
ing an egg in each wound. When we were all 
hatched, we set to work devouring the fatty por- 
tions of the caterpillar, who continued to eat as 
usual, though his food did not afford him much 
nourishment. When full grown, we eat our way 
through the skin of the unfortunate cabbage-feeder, 
and immediately spun for ourselves a number of 
little silken cocoons of a bright yellow colour, in 
which to pass the winter. In one of these little 
cocoons I underwent my transformations, and 
when I escaped I had the form which you now 

Such, reader, is the subject of a conversation 


which took place, or might have taken place, on 
the leaves of the willow, between six of our com- 
monest insects. The metamorphoses of insects surely 
deserve a place in the fairy tales of Science, as 
they are far more wonderful, because true, than any 
of the metamorphoses that we read of in the fairy 
tales of Greece and Home. 


" Fire burn, and cauldron bubble !" Macbeth. 

THE vapour that escapes from the spout of an ordi- 
nary tea-kettle, is a much more wonderful emana- 
tion than any of those flimsy spirits which the wierd 
sisters summoned from their magic cauldron. Those 
deluded old ladies, who wasted so much time in 
collecting disgusting ingredients for their infernal 
broth, in dancing wildly around their cooking uten- 
sils, and in break ing-in and training broomsticks, 
have happily disappeared from the face of this beau- 
tiful earth, As we cannot look into their magic 
cauldron, let us peep into the homely kettle. 

Science has revealed so many beautiful truths 
concerning boiling water, that we deem it advisable 
to devote an entire chapter to their consideration. 
The reader must not think that we have chosen a 
trivial subject. It has been well said, that there is 
no great and no small in nature, and that the force 
which shapes the world gives form to the dewdrop. 
To this remark we may add a similar one namely, 
that some of the grandest phenomena in nature are 


represented on a small scale in a kettle of boiling 

" Mary, bring the kettle !" 

Heat, by entering bodies, expands them through 
a range which includes, as three successive stages, 
the forms of solid, liquid, and air, or gas ; becoming 
thus in nature the grand antagonist and modifier 
of that attraction which holds corporeal particles 
together, and which, if acting alone, would reduce 
the whole material universe to one solid, lifeless 

The influence of heat on the dimensions of mate- 
rial substances affords a convenient method of 
estimating the relative quantity of heat which will 
produce a given effect ; for since it appears that a 
certain increase of temperature will invariably be 
accompanied by a certain degree of expansion of 
bulk, it follows that, if we can estimate the degree 
of expansion in any given case, we may thence infer 
the amount of temperature. Upon this principle 
depends the utility of those philosophical instru- 
ments called thermometers, or heat -measures. As 
we shall frequently have to refer to the indications 
of the thermometer, we will describe the construc- 
tion of this beautiful little instrument. 

The mercurial thermometer consists essentially of 
a fine glass tube with a bulb at one extremity, and 
which, having been filled with hot mercury or 
quicksilver, introduced through the open extremity, 
has been hermetically sealed while full, so that no 


air can possibly enter. As the tube and mercury 
in it gradually cool, the enclosed fluid contracts 
and consequently sinks, leaving above it a vacant 
space or vacuum, through which it may again ex- 
pand on the application of heat. 

To such a tube it is necessary to add a scale, 
showing at what height the mercury will stand at 
any given temperature, for a tube of mercury 
without a scale would be just as useless as a balance 
without weights. Now, to form a scale that shall 
agree with other scales we must find two fixed 
points, and then divide the intervening space into 
a given number of equal parts, or degrees. These 
fixed points are the temperatures of melting snow 
or ice, called the freezing-point, and of pure boiling 
water, named the boiling-point. The first is found 
by plunging the instrument into melting ice, and 
then, after the temperature of the bath is attained, 
marking the position of the mercury upon the 
tube ; it is now placed in a deep metallic vessel 
nearly filled with water, which is heated until 
rapid ebullition ensues, and in this manner the 
position of the boiling-point is ascertained. Fah- 
renheit's scale being the standard generally adopted 
in England, it is usual to divide the space between 
the two points into 180 degrees, the freezing-point 
being marked 32, and the boiling-point 112. In 
the Centigrade thermometer, which is used on the 
Continent, the space is divided into 100 equal 
parts, the two points being marked respectively 


and 100. The reader will understand that a 
degree of heat is a mere arbitrary division, and that 
212 Fahr. and 100 Cent, indicate the same tem- 
perature. We shall adopt the unphilosophical but 
convenient scale of Fahrenheit throughout this 

No indication is afforded by the thermometer 
of the absolute quantity of heat contained in any 
substance, but merely of the amount of free or 
sensible heat capable of producing a certain degree 
of expansion in a column of mercury. If a quan- 
tity of ice, at the temperature of zero, or 0, be 
placed in a warm room, it will immediately begin 
to melt, and a thermometer plunged into it will 
soon indicate 32, though at first the column of 
mercury stood at zero. But, strange to say, the 
mercury will remain stationary at the freezing-point 
until the whole of the ice has passed into the liquid 
form. Thus we see that a large quantity of heat is 
absorbed by the ice in the act of thawing, so as to be 
no longer appreciable by the thermometer. 

Again, if an open vessel containing ice-cold water 
be placed upon a fii'e, the temperature of the liquid 
will rapidly rise to 212, but at this point it will 
remain stationary until the whole of the water is 
converted into steam. The heat thus lost or ab- 
sorbed during liquefaction and vaporization is called 
hidden or latent heat, in contradistinction to the 
heat of temperature. 

But we must not forget our kettle. The stream 


of vapour now issuing from the spout reminds us of 
the Arabian fable of the genie, who escaped from the 
fisherman's bottle in the form of a column of smoke. 
But the genie of the tea-kettle is infinitely more 
powerful than the genie of the bottle, who was, more- 
over, a stupid, blustering fellow, quite unlike our 
faithful servant, Steam. Let us see how our mighty 
genie may be evoked ; in other words, let us ascer- 
tain the conditions under which vaporization takes 
place. Vapours, of which steam is the most familiar 
to us, are light, expansible, and generally invisible 
gases, resembling air completely in their mechanical 
properties while they exist, but subject to be con- 
densed into liquids or solids by cold. Steam is 
perfectly invisible ; but as soon as it comes into 
contact with the cold air, it is condensed into 
a white cloud, which consists of minute liquid 

When converted into steam, water undergoes a 
great expansion, a cubic inch becoming under ordi- 
nary circumstances a cubic foot of steam ; or, to be 
exact, one cubic inch of water expands, when suffi- 
ciently heated, into 1694 cubic inches of steam. 
We have already shown that this change, like the 
liquefaction of solids, is effected by the addition of 
heat to the water. But a much larger quantity of 
heat enters into vapours than into liquids into 
steam than into water. If over a steady fire a 
certain quantity of ice-cold water requires one hour 
to bring it to the boiling point, it will require a 


continuance of the same heat for five hours more to 
boil it off entirely. Yet liquids do not become 
hotter after they begin to boil, however long or with 
whatever violence the boiling is continued. This 
fact is of importance in domestic economy, particu- 
larly in cookery, and attention to it would save 
much fuel. Soups made to boil in a gentle way by 
the application of a moderate heat, are just as hot 
as when they are made to boil on a strong fire with 
the greatest violence. Again, when water in a 
copper is once brought to the boiling point, the fire 
may be reduced, as having no further effect in rais- 
ing its temperature.* 

If a thermometer be plunged into the steam that 
fills the upper part of the kettle, it will indicate 
212. The steam is thus found to be no hotter than 
the water itself. What then becomes of all the 
heat that passes into the kettle, since it is neither 
discovered in the water nor in the steam 1 It be- 
comes latent that is to say, it enters into the water 
and converts it into steam without raising its tem- 
perature. As much heat disappears in the vaporiza- 
tion of a single pint of water as would suffice to 
raise the temperature of 1000 pints by one degree ! 
But the reader will be able to form a more adequate 
conception of the latent heat of steam, from the fact 
that one gallon of water converted into steam will, 
by condensation, raise five gallons and a half of ice- 
cold water to the boiling point ! 

* Professor Graham. 


Could we see through the sides of the kettle we 
should observe so many strange movements in the 
liquid that we might easily persuade cm-selves that 
we were peering into some magic cauldron. By 
substituting a thin glass flask for the kettle, the 
whole process of boiling may be seen to perfection. 
On gradually heating water in such a vessel, we 
first observe the formation of tiny air-bubbles, which 
dart through the liquid with marvellous rapidity. 
As the temperature increases these " beaded bub- 
bles winking at the brim" give place to much 
larger bubbles, which are formed at the bottom of 
the vessel, and which rise a little way in the liquid, 
and then contract and disappear in a most myste- 
rious manner, producing a hissing or simmering 
sound. But as the heating goes on, these bubbles, 
which consist of steam, rise higher and higher in 
the liquid, till at last they reach the surface and 
escape, producing a bubbling agitation, or the pheno- 
mena of ebullition. It may now be remarked that 
steam itself is invisible, as the upper part of the flask 
appears quite empty ; but when it escapes into the 
cold air it is condensed into a white cloud of minute 
drops of water. 

It was first remarked by Gay-Lussac, an illus- 
trious French chemist, that liquids are converted 
more easily into vapour when in contact with 
angular and uneven surfaces, than when the sur- 
faces which they touch are smooth and polished. 
He also remarked that water boils at a temperature 


two degrees higher in glass than in metal ; so that 
if into water in a glass flask which has ceased to 
boil, a twisted piece of cold iron wire be dropped, 
the boiling is instantly resumed. 

Solid bodies having different temperatures will, if 
kept in contact, gradually change until they all 
acquire the same temperature. But this diffusion 
does not take place instantaneously, or there would 
be no such thing as difference of temperature. The 
rapidity with which heat is conducted varies in dif- 
ferent substances ; for example, if we place a silver 
spoon and a wooden one in boiling water, the handle 
of the former will become too hot to be held before 
that of the wooden one is sensibly warmed. Silver 
is, therefore, a good conductor and wood a bad con- 
ductor of heat. 

Liquids conduct heat very slowly and imperfectly. 
If mercury be poured into a jar, and boiling water 
be poured over it, the metallic fluid will receive 
heat but slowly from the water. A thermometer 
let down a few feet below the surface of a pond or of 
the sea, would, on being drawn up, indicate a lower 
temperature than that of the surface water ; for the 
latter, heated by the rays of the sun, communicates 
little or no heat to the water below. Indeed, it may 
be questioned whether water has any conducting 

It may be reasonably inquired how it happens 
that water is made to boil so readily by the appli- 
cation of heat. A little consideration will show 


that the effect, in a great measure, depends on the 
manner in which the liquid is heated, by placing it 
above the source of heat. If we require boiling 
water we must place the kettle on the fire, and not 
in the ash- hole. When heat is applied to a vessel of 
water, in the ordinary way, the fluid particles near 
the bottom of the vessel, being heated first and 
expanding, become specifically lighter and ascend ; 
colder particles occupy their place, and ascend in 
their turn ; and thus a current is established, the 
heated particles rising up through the centre, and 
colder particles descending at the sides. This is evi- 
dently a very different process from conduction. In 
the case of a solid the heat is conducted from par- 
ticle to particle ; but in liquids there can be no 
change of temperature without a displacement of 
particles. Each particle, as soon as it receives a 
fresh accession of heat, starts off with it, and con- 
veys it to a distance, displacing other and colder 
particles in its progress. This process has received 
the name of convection. 

The more a liquid is expanded by a given change 
of temperature, the greater will be the difference of 
specific gravity between the part which is heated 
and the rest of the mass, aud the more rapid, there- 
fore, will be the circulation from the change. Any 
tenacity or viscosity in the liquid will impede its 
motion, and when water is thickened with flour, or 
other farinaceous substances, it parts with its ac- 
quired heat very slowly. Many a person has burned 



his mouth with hot porridge and expressed his sur- 
prise at the slowness with which it cools, without 
being able to assign the philosophical reason of the 

The currents that exist in the ocean are produced 
by convection, and are quite as easily accounted for 
as the currents in the heated water of our tea-kettle. 
The oceanic currents are of great constancy and 
regularity, but they are modified in their direction 
by the general distribution of land and water on the 
earth's surface. That part of the ocean which is 
immediately under the tropics, and between the 
eastern and western hemispheres, for example, be- 
comes highly heated. The water being greatly 
expanded, flows off on either side towards the poles, 
acquiring a westerly direction as it passes south ot 
the coast of Guinea, and striking the promontory of 
Cape St. Roque, on the South American coast, is split 
into two streams. The smaller one continues south- 
wards towards Cape Horn ; while the larger current 
maintains a north-westerly course into the Gulf of 
Mexico, where it receives further accessions of heat, 
and is gradually changed in its direction. It now 
passes along the southern shores of North America, 
and finally emerges northward in the narrow channel 
between the peninsula of Florida and the Bahama 
Islands,where it assumes the name of the Gulf Stream. 
The temperature of this current is found to be nine 
or ten degrees higher than that of the neighbouring 
* Professor Daniell. 


ocean. This current passes on, gradually widening 
and becoming less marked, till it is lost on the 
western shores of Europe. A less accurately defined 
under-current, from the poles, is constantly setting 
in towards the Equator, to supply the place of the 
heated water which takes the course already de- 
scribed. Besides rendering important aid to the 
navigator, these oceanic currents assist in mantain- 
ing an equilibrium of temperature on the earth, 
moderating the severity of the polar frosts, and 
tempering the sultry heats of the tropics.* 

Among the circumstances which materially affect 
the vaporization of liquids, one of the most im- 
portant is atmospheric pressure. We have said that 
water boils at 212, but this statement requires 
some qualification, as the boiling point of water will 
vary according to the pressure of the atmosphere as 
indicated by the barometer. The aerial ocean which 
envelopes this planet presses upon the surface of 
the liquid ocean with a force equal to nearly fifteen 
pounds on every square inch ; in other words, a 
column of air an inch square, extending from the 
level of the sea to the top of the atmosphere, weighs 
between fourteen and fifteen pounds. The elastic 
force of air is necessarily equal to its pressure. Let 
us try to make this point intelligible to the reader. 
If the mercury of a barometer stands at a height 
of about thirty inches in the open air, indicating a 
pressure of fifteen poxmds, it will stand at exactly 
* Professor Miller. 



the same height in a close room from which all 
communication with the external air has been cut 
off. The lowest stratum of the atmosphere is 
pressed upon by the strata above it, and being 
highly elastic, it assumes the condition of a bent 
spring. The confined air of the room is therefore 
able to support thirty inches of mercury by the 
elasticity which it acquired before the doors and 
windows were closed. 

We shall now be able to understand the relation 
that subsists between the phenomenon of ebullition 
and atmospheric pressure. Water evaporates, or is 
convei'ted into steam at all temperatures, until the 
whole space above it is filled with watery vapour 
of a certain elasticity. This is a wise provision of 
nature, for if water obstinately retained its liquid 
form at all temperatures below 212, the moistui'e 
that descended to the earth in the form of rain 
would never be evaporated during the hottest 
summers. But there is a difference between eva- 
poration at low temperatures and ebullition or 
boiling. Water must be heated until its vapour 
acquires an elasticity equal to that of the atmo- 
sphere before ebullition can take place. At 212 
the elastic force of steam will support a column of 
mercury thirty inches high, and at this temperature 
the steam-bubbles acquire the power of breaking 
through the surface of the heated water, provided 
the barometer stands at thirty inches. 

Were we to carry our kettle to the summit of a 


high mountain, we should find that the water would 
boil at a very low temperature, and never become 
hot enough to make a decent cup of tea. Thus at 
the town of Potosi, on the Andes, where the stiper- 
incumbent pressure of air will only support some 
eighteen inches of mercury, water boils at 188. 
Again, were we to carry our kettle to the bottom 
of a deep mine, we should have to heat the water 
to a point considerably higher than 212 before it 
would boil, owing to the increased height of the 
column of air pressing upon its surface. 

We now turn to the examination of another in- 
teresting point connected with the boiling of water. 
The reader will doubtless imagine that the hotter 
a vessel is into which water is poured the sooner 
the liquid will boil. This is far from being the 
case, as may be proved by pouring a small quantity 
of water into a silver basin heated to redness. 
Instead of flashing into steam, as might be expected, 
the water will gather itself into a globule and dance 
about on the hot surface as if bewitched. The liquid 
is in a state of incessant motion : sometimes it 
elongates itself into an oval in one direction ; then, 
drawing itself up, it stretches out in a cross direc- 
tion, and these changes take place so rapidly that a 
star-shaped figure or rosette is often the result. 
While the drop is in this spheroidal condition, as it 
has been called, let the lamp which heats it be 
withdrawn ; the basin gradually cools, and after a 
short time the drop loses its spheroidal form, 


spreads out on the metallic surface, and is instantly 
thrown into violent ebullition. This striking phe- 
nomenon is generally known as Leidenfrost's expe- 

All volatizable liquids under similar circum- 
stances behave as water does. Liquid sulphurous 
acid, for instance, when poured into a red-hot silver 
or platinum crucible, retains its spheroidal state ; 
its temperature never rising beyond its boiling 
point. Now, as the boiling point of this liquid is 
18, and therefore much below the freezing point 
of water, we can actually freeze water in a red-hot 
crucible by pouring it into the sulphurous acid ! 
The same thing occurs with a mixture of ether and 
solid carbonic acid when introduced into a red-hot 
metallic vessel. The mixture requires for its con- 
version into gas as much time as it would in the 
air at the ordinary temperature. If we introduce 
into this mixture a small tube containing a little 
mercury, the liquid metal instantly congeals into a 
solid ! * Again, in the place of a metallic basin or 
crucible, water near its boiling point may be made 
use of to support a drop of ether. Instead of 
mixing with the hot water, the ether gathers itself 
up into a globule and rolls about upon the surface 
of the other liquid. 

Let us confine our attention to the original expe- 
riment, to the dancing drop in the red-hot basin. 
By a series of beautiful experiments it has been 
* Liebig. 


satisfactorily proved that the spheroidal drop never 
touches the heated surface, but is separated from it 
by a considerable interval. To what, then, is this 
interval due 1 ? Let us quote the words of a clever 
writer to whom we are indebted for many of the 
facts contained in this chapter. 

" At an early period of railway history, it was pro- 
posed by that original genius George Stephenson to 
substitute for ordinary steel springs, in the case of 
locomotives, springs of elastic steam. It was proposed 
to convey the steam into cylinders in which pistons 
should move steam-tight; these pistons supported 
by the steam beneath them, were to bear the weight 
of the locomotive. Now what the great engineer 
proposed for the locomotive, the spheroidal drop 
effects for itself it is borne upon a cushion of its 
own steam. The surface must be hot enough to 
generate steam of sufficient tension to lift the drop. 
The body which bears the drop must be of such a 
nature as to yield up readily a supply of heat; for 
the drop evaporates and becomes gradually smaller, 
and to make good the heat absorbed by the vapour, 
the substance on which the drop rests must yield 
heat freely; in other words, it must be a good con- 
ductor of heat. 

" It is to the escape of steam in regular pulses 
from beneath the drop that the beautiful figures 
which it sometimes exhibits are to be referred. By 
using a very flat basin over which the spheroidal 
drop spreads itself widely, we render it difficult for 


the vapour to escape from the centre to the edges 
of the drop; and this resistance may be increased 
till the vapour finds it easier to break in bubbles 
through the middle of the drop than to escape 

" All these facts are in perfect harmony with the 
explanation, that it is the development and inces- 
sant removal of a steam-spring at the lower surface 
of the drop which keeps the liquid from contact 
with the metal and shields it from the communica- 
tion of heat by contact. Owing to this, indeed, 
the liquid in the spheroidal condition never reaches 
its boiling temperature. If you plunge a thermo- 
meter into a spheroid of water in a red-hot vessel, 
its temperature will be found to be several degrees 
under 212. When the lamp is withdrawn and 
the basin cools, the tension of the steam under- 
neath the drop becomes gradually feebler. The 
spring loses its force, the drop sinks and finally 
comes in contact with the metal. Heat is then 
suddenly imparted to the liquid, which immediately 
bursts into ebullition."* 

It is well known that we may introduce the hand, 
if moist, into melted lead, nay, into white-hot melted 
copper or iron, and move it slowly about in thee 
liquids, not only without burning the hand, but 
without even feeling the intense heat of the melted 
metals; whereas iron or copper at a heat far below 
redness, instantly causes a blister or burn. This 
* Westminster Eeview. 


apparent anomaly is easily explained. The intense 
heat of the melted metal instantly vaporizes the 
moisture of the hand, and the experimentalist re- 
ceives no injury, as his hand is protected by a thick 
glove of non-conducting steam. 

It is highly probable that the priests of old were 
acquainted with this fact, and made good use of it 
in the ordeal of fire. When a person was accused 
of some crime which could not be proved against 
him, he was subjected to the fiery ordeal, that is to 
say, he had to plunge his arm into molten lead or 
walk barefooted over red-hot ploughshares. If he 
passed through the ordeal scathless, his innocence 
was held to be satisfactorily established. Now the 
reader need not be told that the safety of the sus- 
pected person did not depend on his freedom from 
guilt but on the moisture of his arm or feet and 
the heat of the metal. The greatest criminal might 
walk over hot ploughshares, provided they were hot 
enough to give him sandals of vapour. 

Truly the humble tea-kettle is wonderfully sug- 
gestive. We had almost forgotten that it forms 
the text of the present chapter, but just now the 
water boiled over and reminded us that we had 
not touched upon those grand kettles of nature, 
the Geysers, or intermittent boiling fountains of 

The Geysers, of which there are a considerable 
number, are springs of hot water holding a large 
quantity of silex or flint in solution, which issue 


from the beds of lava of which the wonderful vol- 
canic island is chiefly composed. A jet of boiling 
water, accompanied with a great evolution of vapour, 
first appears, and is ejected to a considerable height ; 
a dense volume of steam succeeds, and is thrown up 
with prodigious force, and a terrific noise like that 
produced by the escape of vapour from the boiler 
of a steam-engine. Nature's cauldron boils over ! 
This operation sometimes lasts for more than an 
hour, and after an interval of repose of uncertain 
duration, the same phenomena are repeated. 

The Great Geyser is the most celebrated of these 
boiling fountains. Sir George Mackenzie, who was 
the first to describe it, states that its eruptions were 
preceded by a sound resembling the distant discharge 
of heavy ordnance, and the ground shook sensibly ; 
the sound was rapidly 1'epeated, when the water in 
the basin, after heaving several times, suddenly rose 
in a large column, accompanied by clouds of steam, 
to the height of ten or twelve feet. The column 
then seemed to burst, and sinking down produced 
a wave, which caused the water to overflow the 
basin. A succession of eighteen or twenty jets now 
took place, some of which rose from a height of 
from fifty to ninety feet. The last eruption was 
the most violent ; this beJng over, the water sud- 
denly disappeared from the basin, and sunk down a 
pipe in the centre to a depth of ten feet ; but in 
the course of a few hours the phenomena were 
repeated with increased energy. The basin of the 


Great Geyser is an irregular oval, about fifty-six 
feet by forty-six, formed of a mound of flinty de- 
posits about seven feet high. The channel through 
which the water is ejected is about sixteen feet in 
diameter at the opening, but it contracts to ten feet 
lower down ; its depth is estimated at sixty feet. 

From experiments made by the Chevalier Bunsen, 
in 1846, it appears that the Geysers are irregular 
tubes fed with rain and snow-water, and that their 
peculiar form favours the heating of the lower por- 
tions of the contained water, by the subterranean 
fires, to a degree far above the boiling point. The 
eruption of one of these Geysers is explained by 
supposing that when the whole of the contained 
water is sufficiently heated to allow of ebullition 
towards the upper part of the tube, portion after 
portion of the highly heated water successively 
bursts into steam as the pressure is diminished by 
the removal of the upper portion of the aqueous 

That this is the true explanation of the pheno- 
mena is highly probable, since artificial Geysers have 
been constructed of iron tubes, which being filled 
with water, and heated near the lower extremity by 
burning charcoal, eject little columns of boiling 
water, and mimic all the phenomena presented by 
the natural Geysers. 

Let us now ring the bell, and tell Mary to take 
away the tea-kettle, for there is no knowing what 
abstruse subjects it may suggest, as it sits on the 


hob, singing its peculiar version of " Home, sweet 
home !" The reader must admit that the title we 
have chosen for this chapter is the only term that 
would embrace all the wonderful facts we have 
related. The bubbles and currents of boiling water, 
the dancing and ever-changing globule, and the 
huge cauldrons of Iceland, fall quite naturally under 
the indefinite heading of " Water Bewitched." 


AS? &..-& 


XkiJUrf \/> 

^4- i^ * j **&*&* 

* ^n 

4 x:^ HX^ 

fV * 


" We fly by night." Macbeth. 

LET us take our station, on a clear evening, in 
some wide, open plain, and gaze upward and 
around on the star-spangled heavens that shroud 
and reveal reveal and shroud the unfathomable 
mystery of the INFINITE and ETERNAL. Though 
from the spot we occupy in space we can see only a 
small portion of the visible universe, yet even with 
the naked eye we behold a multitude of bright 
luminaries. As we continue to watch them we 
find that the immense majority of them shine with 
a twinkling light, and retain the same relative posi- 
tion to each other, whilst the remainder, very few 
in number, shed a steady light, and change their 
places continually, returning at given periods in the 
same path. We are thus led to divide the heavenly 
bodies within the sphere of our perception into two 
principal classes or systems the sidereal as we 
will call it here, for convenience' sake and the 
planetary. The stars belonging to the former are 
popularly called fixed stars, although this term, in 
its strictest acceptation, must be held not to be 


quite applicable to them, as they unquestionably 
have measurable motions of their own. Those 
belonging to the latter are called erratic or wander- 
ing stars, popularly planets, from a Greek word 
signifying a wanderer ; these include the sun, moon, 
our own earth, and the other planetary bodies, as 
well as the comets. The erratic stars constitute, 
with the sun about which they move as their 
common centre or focus, in obedience to the great 
universal law of gravitation revealed to us by the 
genius of Newton and his sublime predecessor the 
illustrious Kepler the solar system, which, however 
so infmitesimally small in comparison to the infinite 
magnitude and extent of the sidereal world, men 
must naturally regard with greater and more vivid 
nay, if the expression may be permitted us, with 
more affectionate interest than the universe 
beyond. Moreover, the bodies composing this sys- 
tem are comparatively near to us, and more within 
the reach of our observation, than the fixed stars, 
which are placed at immeasurable distances from 
us. Let us, therefore, first take, as we are being 
wafted on with our planet through space, a rapid 
survey of them, before proceeding to the contempla- 
tion of the " world of worlds" beyond. 

By a long series of patient observations of a most 
delicate kind, aided by the telescope and other mar- 
vellous instruments devised by human ingenuity, 
and by refined combinations of theoretical reasoning 
and logical induction, man has succeeded in rnea- 


suring the dimensions, gauging as it were the con- 
tents, and weighing as in a balance the mass, not of 
our earth alone, but of all the other planets, and of 
the great sun himself. 

Thus we know that the equatorial diameter of 
our globe is about 7926, the polar diameter 7900 
miles ; that our earth revolves round its axis with 
a velocity of nearly 12 miles in a minute, and that 
it moves in its orbit round the sun at a rate of 
more than 1000 miles a minute ; that its distance 
from the sun is 95,000,000 miles. 

The moon, the satellite of the Earth, is distant 
from it some 240,000 miles, and revolves round it 
in 27^ days ; its diameter measures only 2180 miles. 

Of the other planetary bodies, some are consider- 
ably larger, some smaller, than our earth. The 
largest of all, the brightest among them, is Jupiter, 
with a diameter of about 88,000 miles, and a bulk 
1 300 times that of the Earth ; owing to his infei-ior 
density, his mass is, however, only upwards of 370 
times that of our globe. Perpetual spring reigns 
on this King of Planets. Jupiter is attended by 
four satellites or moons, with the exception of one, 
each of them larger than our moon, which revolve 
round him from west to east. His distance from 
the sun is 485,000,000 miles ; his revolution round 
the great centre of the planetary world occupies 12 
years. The next in size is Saturn, with a diameter 
of 79,000 miles, and accordingly about 1000 times 
larger than the Earth ; he is 890,000,000 miles dis- 



tant from the sun, and revolves round it in 29 
years. A revolving luminous ring, consisting of 
three distinct portions, one within the other, sur- 
rounds this most remarkable planet, and eight 
satellites revolve round him. Uranus was, up to 
Adams's, Leverrier's, and Galle's recent discovery of 
Neptune, considered the most distant planet from 
the solar centre of the system ; the distance being 
calculated at 1,800,000,000 miles, and the period of 
revolution, 84 years. The diameter of Uranus is 
35,000 miles, and the bulk about 80, the mass about 
20, times that of the Earth ; at least four satellites 
are known to revolve round him, and several more 
undoubtedly exist. Neptune, now the most distant 
known planet from the sun (2,800,000,000 miles), 
revolves round the latter in 1 65 years ; the diameter 
of this planet is 37,500 miles, the bulk about 107 
times that of the Earth, the mass about the same as 
that of Uranus. Among the lesser planets, we have 
to mention Mercury, the one nearest the solar centre, 
being distant from it only 37,000,000 miles ; the 
period of his revolution is 88 days. His diameter is 
about 3200 miles ; from the close proximity of this 
planet to the sun, it is conjectured that the mean 
heat in it is above that of boiling qiiicksilver, and 
even near the poles water would always boil. Its 
mass is about one-twelfth that of the Earth, the 
mean density rather greater than that of our planet. 
Venus, next to Jupiter the brightest and most im- 
portant and interesting of the planets, has a diameter 


of about 7800 miles; some 68,000,000 miles distant 
from the centre of the solar system, she revolves 
round it in 224 days. Nearly of equal size, mass, 
and density as the Earth, and with a comparatively 
trifling difference of some 27,000,000 miles between 
the respective distances of the two planets from the 
sun, Venus would be supposed to present the same 
climatological and meteorological conditions as her 
sister planet ; and this would unquestionably be the 
case, but that Venus happens to turn most obliquely 
round her axis, whence it results that snow and ice 
cannot accumulate at the poles, which are subjected 
by turns for some four months to the fierce glare of 
an almost vertical sun, and that there are no tempe- 
rate zones in that planet as in ours ; though an 
atmosphere, much loaded with clouds, would cer- 
tainly seem to mitigate in some measure the in- 
tense glare and heat of the sunshine. 

Mars, the nearest of the superior planets exterior 
to the Earth, presents more points of similarity to 
the latter than any of the other. His diameter is 
about 4100 miles, his distance from the solar centre, 
round which he revolves in 687 days, 142,000,000 
miles; his mass is about one-seventh part of that of 
the Earth, and his density a trifle smaller. He is 
evidently surrounded by an atmosphere of consider- 
able density ; he shines with a red and fiery light ; 
seen through a good telescope, his disk presents 
something like a vague delineation of seas and con- 
tinents. Near the poles a zone of white is seen, 
N 2 


clearly denoting the existence of large masses of 
snow. The climate of this planet must be consider- 
ably colder than ours j but, from the similar obli- 
quity of the ecliptic, and almost identical period of 
diurnal rotation of the two, the changes of the 
seasons must be very similar to our own, though 
with much greater variations. 

Besides these larger planets, there are found 
between Mars and Jupiter about thirty smaller 
planets and asteroids, most of them exceedingly 
minute, and discernible only through the telescope. 
Vesta and Pallas are the brightest among them, 
and may, when nearest to us, be just barely detected 
with the naked eye, though even then with the 
greatest difficulty only. 

To convey to the mind of the reader an intelli- 
gible general impression of the relative magnitudes 
and distances of the principal parts of the planetary 
system, let a globe two feet in diameter be placed 
on a well levelled field, to represent the /Sun. 
Mercury will then be represented by a grain of 
mustard-seed on the circumference of a circle 164 
feet in diameter for its orbit. Venus will appear 
as a pea, on a circle 284 feet in diameter ; the Earth 
of the same size, on a circle of 430 feet ; Mars of the 
size of a rather large pin's head, on a circle of 654 
feet ; Juno, Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas, grains of sand, 
in orbits of from 1000 to 1200 feet ; Jupiter a 
moderate-sized orange, on a circle about 720 yards 
across ; Saturn a smaller orange, on a circle of four- 
fifths of a mile; Uranus a small plum, on the circum- 


ference of a circle above a mile and a half in diameter ; 
Neptune a somewhat larger plum, on the circum- 
ference of a circle about two miles and a third in 

Having thus briefly glanced at the planetary satel- 
lites of the sun, we will now proceed to view, with 
equal briefness, that great centre of the system 
itself, which feeds and vivifies them all with its 
glorious rays. The stupendous globe which we call 
the sun, is about 1,400,000 times as large as our 
earth, its diameter being 885,000 miles ! However, 
its density being only 0'2543 as compared to that 
of the earth, it contains only 354,936 times the 
mass or quantity of ponderable matter that the 
latter consists of. It turns on its axis in 25^ days, 
as proved by telescopic observations of certain dark 
spots on its surface. The sun apparently moves 
round the earth, though it is in reality the latter 
body which moves round the sun, in a nearly 
circular orbit, described in a plane, sensibly fixed, 
called the ecliptic. The ancients called that portion 
of the heavens in which the sun's apparent orbit is 
performed the zodiac, and divided the great circle 
formed by the intersection of the plane of this orbit 
with the sphere of the heavens into twelve equal 
portions or signs, named in order Aries, Taurus, 
Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagitta- 
rius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces. The sun, how- 
ever, has also a real motion : he moves with the entire 
solar system in the direction of the constellation of 
Hercules in the western sky. The sun's rays are 


the ultimate soui'ce of all the motions observed on 
the surface of our planet, and of all vegetable and 
animal life on it ; since it is by their vivifying 
action that plants are elaborated from inorganic 
matter, to become in their turn the support of 
animals and of man, and the source of our great coal 
deposits, so felicitously and truly called by the late 
George Stephenson " bottled sunshine /" By the 
unequal action of the solar heat are produced all 
winds and storms, and those disturbances in the 
electric equilibrium of the atmosphere which give 
rise to the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism. By 
the solar rays the waters of the sea are drawn up 
into the air in vapour, to descend again in rain, 
irrigating and fertilizing the laud, and producing 
springs and rivers. To their action and influence 
must mainly and primarily be attributed the 
chemical compositions and decompositions of the 
elements of nature, nay, even the phenomena of 
volcanic activity. 

Judging by what we see around us on our own 
globe, and by the way in which every corner of it is 
crowded with living beings, and arguing from the 
most natural of all analogies, most, if not all, of the 
other larger planets of our solar system must be 
held to be habitable and inhabited worlds like our 

By nations in the infancy of intellectual develop- 
ment the heavens above and around us might have 
been looked upon as a kind of solid arch, vault, or 
canopy, hung with greater and lesser lamps, intended 


solely for the special behoof and benefit of the puny 
dwellers on this puny atom which we call our earth. 
But we of a generation immeasurably more ad- 
vanced in knowledge, to whom the beneficence of 
the CREATOR has deigned to unclasp the first volume 
of the great Book of Nature, that we may read the 
marvellous page, and bow down and adore the 
Infinite Wisdom that conceived, the Infinite Power 
that made this glorious world ; we, who are per- 
mitted to walk in the light of knowledge and science, 
before which the desponding comment of "Athena's 
wisest son" upon human knowledge, that 

"All we know is nothing can be known," 

stands rebuked and disproved ; we who may span 
with a thought the inconceivable distance which 
separates our planet from the " threshold of space" 
we can no longer entertain the same crude and 
" unintelligent" notion of the " nature and purpose" 
of the works of the Divine Hand. 

The discoveries of science have disclosed to us in 
each planet, which, like our own, revolves in regu- 
lated periods round the sun, provisions in all respects 
similar to those found to exist here : the same 
structure, form, and materials the same action and 
influence of the same calorific and illuminating 
agency the same alternations of light and dark- 
ness, produced by the same means the same pleasing 
succession of seasons the same diversity of climate 
the same agreeable distribution of land and water. 

With the overwhelming evidence of these most 


essential analogies between our own and the other 
planets before our mind, how can we doubt but that 
those other "celestial structures" have been made, 
provided, and fitted by God to be the abodes of 
sentient beings kindred to the denizens of our earth 1 
As direct evidence of the fact, however, remains as 
yet still denied us, attempts have not been, and 
even now are not wanting to throw doubt on the 
correctness of this inference from our analogical 
reasoning. But most of the " arguments" adduced 
against the supposition of the planets being inhabit- 
able globes like our earth are of too flimsy and futile 
a nature to be deserving even of a passing allusion ; 
others have been convincingly refuted. Thus, to 
give an instance, it has been advanced that Jupiter, 
Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, being severally five, 
nine, eighteen, and twenty-eight times fai'ther re- 
moved from the sun than our earth, the heating and 
illuminating power of the solar rays must be in these 
large planets respectively 25, 81, 324, and 784 
times less than on our globe, which would preclude 
the possibility of the existence on them of beings 
organized like the denizens of earth. The simple 
consideration, however, that a mere enlargement of 
the pupil of the eye in the ratio of the diminution 
of the apparent superficial magnitude of the sun's 
disk as respectively beheld from these planets, or a 
proportionally increased sensibility of the retina, 
would leave the illuminating power of the sun 
the same as at the earth and that in like man- 
ner the diminished calorific power of the solar rays 


might be compensated by modified atmospheric con- 
ditions, will suffice to dispose of this objection. 
The only tenable argument against the habitable- 
ness of those large globes might be, that from their 
vast magnitude in comparison to the earth the 
effects of gravity upon them would be such as to 
unfit species organized like those of the latter for 
existence there, since they would, in fact, be crushed 
to pieces under the enormous pressure of their own 
weight. But leaving out of consideration the very 
obvious expedient of a proportionate adaptation of 
the size and weight of the bodies placed upon these 
globes to the respective magnitudes of the latter, 
a more careful examination of the question, and ap- 
plication of the rule, that "the weight of bodies 
placed upon the surface of a globe depends con- 
jointly on the quantity of matter in the globe, and 
on the distance of the body from its centre," will at 
once show that owing to the inferior density of the 
matter composing the four large planets, which in 
comparison to that of the matter composing the 
Earth, is for Jupiter as 1 to 4, for Saturn as 1 to 85, 
for Uranus and Neptune as 1 to 6 ; the weight of 
bodies placed on the surfaces of the three latter 
planets actually does not differ much from their 
weight on the earth, whilst in the case of Jupiter, 
it is only 2f times greater than upon the terrestrial 

In the case of the moon we are led to believe 
from the desolate bleakness of her surface, and the 
total absence of all indications of an atmosphere, that 


she is not inhabited by organized beings. But even 
here, how know we but that that most beneficent ema- 
nation of the " self-evolving energy divine," that 
most powerful agent in the mysterious chemistry of 
the spheres the all-vivifying rays of the sun, may 
not be silently at work re-fitting even that " cinder 
of an extinct world," for the habitation of kindred 
beings 1 

The satellites of the other planets have been 
proved by astronomical observation to be under 
physical conditions similar to that of the moon ; 
and it is probable, therefore, that they are at all 
events not as yet in a proper state of habitability. 
Finally, as regards the planetoids or asteroids 
whether we look upon them in the light of frag- 
ments of a smashed or exploded planet, or in that 
of germs or constituent elements of a future planet 
in process of formation by coalescing and agglome- 
ration it is plain that they present none of the 
leading and essential analogies to our earth that are 
observed in the larger planets. 

To those " strange wanderers of the sky," comets, 
we intend to devote a separate chapter, and will 
therefore now at once wing our flight beyond the 
narrow limits of our solar system, to the confines of 
the visible universe to the threshold of the abyss 
of space beyond. 

The innumerable multitude of celestial bodies, 
which seemingly preserve from age to age the same 
relative situation in the heavens, and are therefore 


popularly called "fixed stars''' (although, as we have 
already taken occasion to observe, they have un- 
questionably all of them measurable motions of 
their own, too slow, indeed, to be sensibly percep- 
tible, yet none the less real), were classified' by the 
ancients into fanciful groups, called constellations, 
to which names were assigned, either from some 
supposed resemblance of the outlines of the group 
to figures of men, animals, or other objects for ex- 
ample, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Aquila, 
Cygnus. Serpens ; the names of the signs of the 
zodiac, which we have already given ; Lyra, &c. ; 
or by way of a special tribute of veneration to some 
departed hero or heroine e.g., Hercules, Perseus, 
Andromeda, Cassiopeia, &c. ; or from the most 
grovelling adulation of which the name of Coma 
Berenices, bestowed upon a constellation above Leo, 
affords a most striking instance. Berenice, daughter 
of Magas of Gyrene, and wife of Ptolemy III., 
King of Egypt, rejoiced in an abundance of very 
beautiful hair, of which she was inordinately vain ; 
a portion of this had been suspended in a temple, 
from which it was suddenly missed one day to the 
great consternation of the courtiers, who had reason 
to dread the anger of the " bereaved" beauty. How- 
ever, Conon the astronomer, a sharp fellow in his 
way, luckily bethought himself of the notable expe- 
dient of looking for the missing locks in the heavens, 
where, sure enough, he beheld them quite plain, the 
same having been " translated" to that exalted posi- 


tion by the gods, evidently on account of their 
surpassing loveliness. The laureate of the Egyptian 
court, Callimachus, wrote a poem thereon. The 
"delicate" flattery succeeded to the fullest extent; 
the queen was more than satisfied, and the Coma 
Berenices shines down on us to the present day ! 
The catalogue of stars which forms part of the 
famous Almagest of Ptolemy of Alexandria,* an 
astronomer who flourished in the second century 
after Christ, contains 1022 stars, arranged in forty- 
eight such constellations. Although these fanciful 
divisions and classifications of the stars are altogether 
lacking a scientific or other practical and intelli- 
gible basis, and would seem, as Sir John Herschel 
truly and pertinently observes, to have been pur- 
posely named and delineated to cause as much 
confusion as possible, yet the general convenience 
which they afford is so great, and the stars have in 
process of time become so intensely identified with 
their names, that they have for ages been permitted, 
and must even in our own days still be permitted, 
to retain them. 

A much more rational division of the stars, how- 

* This catalogue of stars is generally held to be the most 
ancient on record. However, this is a popular error. An 
earlier catalogue had been drawn up, about 125 B.C., by the 
illustrious Hipparchus, the greatest astronomer of antiquity, 
and, indeed, up to the days of the immortal Kepler. The 
catalogue of Hipparchus supplied the materials from which 
Ptolemy compiled his. At present there are some 130,000 
stars catalogued ! 


ever, is that into classes, according to their appa- 
rent brightness. These classes astronomers term 
'magnitudes. The brightest stars are said to be of 
the first magnitude ; those next in brightness of the 
second magnitude, and so forth. The stars down to 
the sixth magnitude are visible to the naked eye ; 
it requires, however, tolerably good eyes to distin- 
guish those of the sixth magnitude, even on very 
clear evenings. For stars below the sixth magni- 
tude we must have recourse to telescopes ; with the 
aid of the most powerful of these instruments, we 
can at present discern stars down to the twentieth 
magnitude, and even below. The number of stars of 
the first magnitude is very small, only about 20 of 
them being counted in the heavens ; those of the se- 
cond magnitude number 65; of the third, 190 ; of the 
fourth, 425; of the fifth, 1 1 00 ; of the sixth, 3200; 
of the seventh, 13,000; of the eighth, 40,000; of 
the ninth, 142,000, which gives a total number of 
200,000 stars down to the ninth magnitude. As a 
glance at these figures will show, the numbers in- 
crease very rapidly as we descend in the scale of 
brightness. To conceive a notion, still most inade- 
quate, however, of the countless multitudes of stars 
that are dispersed through infinite space, we need 
simply reflect that Sir William Herschel, through 
his powerful telescope, discovered some eighteen 
millions of stars, of an average magnitude between 
the tenth and eleventh, in the milky way alone that 
great luminous band which stretches all across the 


sky from horizon to horizon. What inconceivable 
numbers should we arrive at, were we to go down to 
the twentieth magnitude ! or attempt to count the 
myriads of star-clusters composing those " clouds of 
suns" that are comprehended xinder the general name 
of nebulae* and of which Sir "William and Sir John 

* Sir William Herschel was enabled, by the powers of his 
large reflecting telescope, to divide and arrange the nebulous 
masses of light discovered by him in his general sweep of the 
northern heavens into the following six classes : 1st. Dis- 
tinct clusters of separate stars ; 2nd. Resolvable nebulae, or 
such as, though not distinctly resolved, yet clearly indicated 
that their resolution might be accomplished by more powerful 
optical instruments. Most of these have indeed now yielded 
to the powers of Lord Rosse's gigantic six-feet reflector ; 3rd. 
Nebulas showing no trace of resolution in his (Sir William 
Herschel' s) telescope. In some of these, also, separate stars 
have been detected by Lord Rosse's telescope, and by the 
great refractor of the observatory at Cambridge, near 
Boston, United States ; and with every new increase in the 
dimensions and power of our optical instruments, we may 
expect to see these " clouds of light" more and more resolved 
into myriads upon myriads of separate stars ; 4th. Planetary 
nebulae, or such as have the appearance of planets ; 5th. 
Stellar nebulas ; and, 6th. Nebulous stars, which, according 
to Sir John Herschel's definition, consist of " a sharp and 
brilliant star, concentrically surrounded by a perfectly circular 
disk or atmosphere of faint light, in some cases dying away 
insensibly on all sides, in others almost suddenly terminated." 
This may also be the proper place to make a passing allusion 
to two most remarkable phenomena visible with the naked eye 
in southern latitudes, called the Magellanic Clouds. They are 
" two cloudy masses of light of a somewhat oval shape. When 
examined through powerful telescopes, they are found to 


Herschel have catalogued above 4000 ! What an 
inexhaustible field of speculation and conjecture is 
opened here to the imagination ! The finite mind 
of man, with its limited comprehensive powers, is be- 
wildered and lost in the interminable range of system 
upon system, firmament upon firmament, of stars, 
each of them a sun, and probably in its sphere the 
presiding centre round which planetary worlds may 
be revolving, the dwelling-places, perchance, of intel- 
ligences of an immeasurably superior order to ours. 
The classification of stars into magnitudes by 
estimation of their relative brightness, although 
unquestionably much more rational than the un- 
meaning division into constellations, is, however, 
entirely arbitrary. As we can only judge of the 
brightness of a star by the total impression made 
by its light upon the eye, it is quite evident that the 
assumed magnitude will depend, first, on its distance 
from us ; second, on the absolute extent of its illu- 
minated surface ; third, on the intrinsic brightness 
of that surface ; and of these data we know nothing, 
or next to nothing. Up to a recent period we only 
knew that the nearest fixed stars could not possibly be 

be of astonishing complexity of constitution, the general 
ground of them consisting of large tracts and patches of nebu- 
losity in every stage of resolution, and of clustering groups, 
interspersed with numerous nebulae, globular clusters in every 
stage of condensation, and objects of a nebulous character 
quite peculiar, and having no analogy in any other part of 
the heavens." 


placed at a distance so small as 19,200,000,000,000 
miles from the sun ; but certain most admirable 
observations and measuriugs, made by the illustrious 
Bessel, have since clearly established the astounding 
fact that the fixed stars placed nearest to our solar 
system are distant from it some 57,000,000,000,000 
miles a distance utterly inconceivable by the hu- 
man mind. Light travelling, as is well known, at the 
rate of 192,000 miles per second, it will take a ray 
from the fixed stars nearest to us some 9^ years to 
reach the earth ! But if this nearest and compa- 
ratively trifling distance is sufficient to appal the 
human understanding, what shall we say or think 
of the immeasurably greater distances which separate 
us from the remoter stars, and from the most dis- 
tant visible nebulae, whose light, it has been calcu- 
lated, will take at least a million years to reach our 
earth ! To arrive at some approximate estimation 
of the real magnitude of the stars, the light which 
they shed on us, and the most imperfect and as yet 
still almost entirely negative knowledge which we 
have obtained respecting their distances, must be 
our only guide. Now, direct photometrical* experi- 
ments have shown that the light of Sirius, the most 
brilliant of the fixed stars, is, at equal distances, 
146^ times more intense than that of our Sun, and 
that it would accordingly require a collection of more 
than 146 suns to shed a ray of light on our earth 

* Light-measuring. 


like that of Sirius, supposing the two bodies to be 
placed at the same distance from us.* 

Several among the stars exhibit the most remark- 
able phenomenon of a regular periodical increase 
and diminution of lustre, involving, in some rare 
instances, an alternate total extinction and revival. 
These are called periodical, or variable stars. One 
of the most remarkable is the star Omicron, in the 
constellation Cetus, which has a period of 334 
days. It remains about a fortnight at its great- 
est brightness, equal to a large star of the second 
magnitude; it then decreases during about three 
months until it disappears altogether; after remain- 
ing invisible during about five months, it reappears 
again, and continues increasing in brilliancy during 
the remaining three months of its period. It shows, 
however, occasionally considerable irregularity in 
its phases, and has actually been known on one 
occasion to remain altogether invisible during more 
than four years (between October, 1 672, and Decem- 
ber, 1676). Another remarkable specimen of a 
variable star is Beta, in the constellation of Perseus. 
The whole period of change of this star is rather 
less than 2 days 20 hours and 49 minutes, during 
which time it varies in brightness from the second 

* To realize, however so feebly, the idea of the magnitude 
and intense luminousness of Sirius, we need simply reflect 
that the diameter of the sun is 885,000 miles, and that the 
light of the latter is about 800,000 times more intense and 
brilliant than that of the full moon. 


magnitude to the fourth; its changes are confined, 
however, to a few hours, as it continues for rather 
more than 2 days 12 hours at its state of greatest 

Stars have also occasionally appeared suddenly in 
various parts of the heavens, blazing forth for a 
time with extraordinary lustre, and after remaining 
awhile apparently immovable, have gradually de- 
creased in brightness, and finally altogether vanished. 
These are properly termed temporary stars. Thus 
there suddenly appeared in the time of Tycko Brake, 
(1572, llth November), in the constellation of Cas- 
siopeia, a most lustrous star, equalling Sirius in 
brightness ; it continued increasing in brilliancy up 
to December, 1572, when it actually surpassed 
Jupiter and Venus when nearest to the earth, and 
was visible at mid-day. From this period forward 
it began to diminish rapidly, and in March, 1574, 
it had completely disappeared from the heavens. 
Another equally brilliant star burst forth on the 
10th October, 1604, in the constellation of Serpeu- 
tarius, and continued visible till October, 1605. 
The fact of the sudden appearance and subsequent 
disappearance of such temporary stars affords an 
irrefragable indication that there must exist also in 
space immense dark bodies, absolutely invisible to 
us, and of which accordingly we cannot possibly 
have any knowledge, as light is the only means of 
communication between the stars and the earth. 

There remains now for us still to consider another 


marvel of the heavens the double and multiple stars. 
The telescope has revealed to us that several thou- 
sands of stars which appear single to the naked eye, 
consist in reality of two or more luminous bodies 
placed in close proximity to each other; the obser- 
vations, and researches made principally by Sir 
William and Sir John Herschel, Sir James South, 
and the great Russian astronomer Struve, have 
placed it beyond doubt that the proximity of these 
stars to each other is by no means accidental, but 
that they are physically connected together by the 
tie of gravity, and revolve round each other as the 
planets do round the sun, and in obedience to the 
same law of attraction and gravitation which 
governs the motions of the solar system. Many of 
the double stars of unequal magnitude exhibit the 
beautiful phenomenon of complementary colours. 
Thus, if the larger star be of a ruddy or orange hue, 
the smaller one will appear blue or green; if the 
larger star appear yellow, the smaller will appear 
blue; if the light of the brighter star incline to 
crimson, that of the other will incline to green. In 
connexion with this subject we may here remark, 
that in many parts of the heavens isolated stars 
have been observed of a red colour, almost as deep 
as blood. 

Thus, Arcturus, Aldebaran (in Taurus), Antares 

(in the Scorpion), are red stars ; and what is more 

curious still, tiirius, whose light is now, and has 

been for several centuries, of the purest white, is 



mentioned by Ptolemy and all other astronomers of 
antiquity as a red star. Lyra, Cygnus, Cor Leonis, 
Virgo, are white stars. Canis Minor, Aquila, the 
Polar Star, and the star Beta, in Ursa Minor, shed a 
yellow light. In certain nebulae all the suns are of 
the same colour, blue for instance; whilst in the 
nebulae of Lacaille, near the Southern Cross, power- 
ful telescopes reveal to the delighted eye. more than 
a hundred differently coloured stars red, green, 
blue, and of a greenish blue. 

Thus far have we winged, our daring flight to the 
utmost confines of the visible heavens, to the Ultima 
Thule of the starry world. But beyond, into the 
endless realms of space, we may not soar. Here 
Almighty wisdom has fixed a barrier, sealed to the 
finite intellect of man. The superior intelligences 
of higher spheres may perchance pass beyond into 
the immensity of God's creation, to stand in their 
turn on the confines of another immensity, into 
which even they may not enter and so on in end- 
less succession. 

Yerily, verily, inconceivable and ineffable is the 
magnitude of the works of the Almighty. A flight 
through space? No, no, not through space; ay, 
not even yet towards the threshold of space ! 

Sale of a Comet. 

I could a Tale unfold." Hamlet. 

WHAT I am 1 What I am made of? What class or 
family of celestial bodies do I belong to ? How many 
there are of us 1 Where do we come from 1 Where 
are we going to ? What offices do we perform 
what purpose subserve in the great economy of the 
heavens ? Tell you all about us 1 Well, you are 
inquisitive, my little terrestrial friends, and it ap- 
pears to me, a little overmuch so ; and small infor- 
mation, I trow, will you get out of me on most of 
these points. Still, I cannot but admire the indo- 
mitable perseverance with which you are prying 
into the abyss of space, seeking to fathom the secrets 
of the universe ; and although some of you have of 
late rather offended the dignity of the great family 
to which I belong, denying us even the possession 
of anything like a substantial body, calling us 
"visible nothings" affirming that they know all 
about us, that they can look right through us, and 
giving us somewhat plainly to understand that they 
regard us very much in the light of exploded 
humbugs,* I yet will bear no malice, and will en- 

* M. Babinet, a distinguished French philosopher, in his 
" Etudes et Lectures sur les Sciences d 1 Observation," is indeed 


deavour, not, indeed, to satisfy your curiosity in all 
matters concerning me and my brethren, but to give 
you some few scraps of information and stray hints 
about xis, leaving you to make the best use of them 
you may, in your interminable cruise on the endless 
sea of speculation. 

Well, then, I am one of a most numerous family. 
Johannes Kepler one of those bright intellectual 
stars that adorn and illumineyour microscopic miteof 
a sphere, and render it interesting even to the giants 
of creation declared that " there are more comets 
in space than fishes in the ocean." A. kindred spirit, 
a Kepler of the present age Arago has calculated 
our number at some three and a half millions at 
the lowest computation, and possibly twice as many. 
We are of all sizes and magnitudes, from the in- 
credibly immense down to the minutest telescopic. 

rather hard upon the poor comets. He calls them mere gather- 
ings of vapour, visible nothings, devoid of all physical proper- 
ties, incapable of doing either good or harm, and useful 
simply through enabling us to verify Newton's law of attrac- 
tion, and explore the regions of heaven far beyond the limits 
of the solar system. He says science now knows all about 
them, and the public have ceased taking the least interest in 
them. It would be interesting to know whether M. Babinet 
has since seen reason to modify this somewhat contemp- 
tuous opinion of those " strange wanderers of the sky." Cer- 
tain, however, it is, that science confessedly knows as yet 
very little about comets, and that the apparition and passage 
of Donati's Comet in 1858 has been narrowly watched and 
tracked with the most eager curiosity, and with the most 
lively interest. 


I myself may boast of a bulk exceeding that of the 
sun in the proportion of nearly 300 to 1 ; that of 
your planet in the proportion of 400.000,000 to 1. 
My brother of 1811 was still larger, being about 
600,000,000 times the bulk of your earth ! The 
essential part about us is the nucleus, which some- 
times appears as a bright stellar point, and some- 
times rather gives the notion of a planetary disc, 
seen through a nebulous haze. What is generally 
called our head, is simply this nebulous haze which 
surrounds the nucleus ; the train, of illuminated 
vapour which is often, though by no means always, 
attached to the head, is usually termed by you the 
tail, though, allow me to observe, rather improperly, 
since this appendage often precedes us in our 
motions. The inhabitants of that portion of your 
sphere which is designated in your maps by the 
name of China who, though certainly a little pig- 
headed, and strangely averse to progress in arts 
and sciences, are yet very careful, and, moreover, 
much more ancient observers of the starry heavens 
than you Europeans have bestowed upon this occa- 
sional appendage the much more appropriate and 
significant name of brush or pencil of light. The 
nebulous haze which invariably surrounds the 
nucleus of members of our family is called the coma, 
from a Greek word signifying hair ; some fancied 
resemblance of the nebulous matter composing this 
coma and the tail, has gained us the name of comets, 
or hairy stars. Now, though rather put out by M. 


Babinet's most unceremonious and very unhand- 
some statement respecting the extreme " flimsi- 
ness" of our material structure, I am yet bound 
to confess that there is, unfortunately, a great deal 
of truth in it. Leaving altogether out of the ques- 
tion the physical constitution of what is termed 
our tail, which truly immeasurably exceeds in 
tenuity the atmosphere surrounding your earth, I 
must even " plead guilty" to the charge of extreme 
" light-headedness" brought against us. I would 
deny it if I could, but I know it would be of no use ; as 
you are but too well aware that even the faintest 
stars can often be distinctly seen, without any per- 
ceptible diminution of their lustre, through the very 
centre of our heads, which, considering the enor- 
mous bulk, for instance, of my brother's head of 
1811 exceeding that of your earth in the propor- 
tion of 4,000,000 to 1 most clearly shows that the 
matter composing it must possess an extreme degree 
of tenuity. If additional proof were required of 
this patent fact, it might be found in the almost 
imperceptible power of attraction which we, even of 
the largest magnitudes, exercise upon Jupiter and 
other planets, or even upon their satellites, and 
those still smaller atomic mites, the planetoids, when 
we accidentally cross them in their orbits. Jupiter 
more especially, who seems to have a peculiar knack 
of being always, somehow or other, in the way of 
some of us, is not in the least affected by pretty 
near contact with our immense bulk, and actually 


often manages to thrust us right out of our orbits 
a feat which even the wretched little planetoids, of 
whom myriads might find room in the head, millions 
in the tail, of one of us, have sometimes succeeded in 
performing. I would not, however, have you be- 
lieve that we are mere " visible nothings" the 
" airy offspring of vapour and the sun ;" however 
so attenuated the material composing us may be, 
still it is ponderable matter ; and there can be no 
doubt but that in some of us at least, the nucleus 
consists of a solid body of appreciable density, a 
direct collision with which it would not be over wise 
in any planet to court. Not that I want to frighten 
you about the possibility of such a collision with 
your earth ; your wise men have cleverly calculated 
that there are about 300,000,000 chances against a 
contingency of the kind. Moreover, depend upon 
it, none of us is likely ever to seek the chance of a 
brush against your earth or any other planet and 
that for a sufficient reason of our own. You re- 
member, perhaps, one of your very clever men 
who, however, for all that, are by no means exempt 
from occasional mistakes Mr. George Stephenson, 
whose genius has enabled you, poor little mites, to 
crawl at a somewhat less snailly pace than of old 
over the surface of your cheese, once said, in reply to 
a question addressed to him as to whether it might 
not be awkward if a cow were to happen to stray on 
a line of rails, right in the way of a rapidly-advancing 
train, "Yes, very awkward for the coo!" Expe- 


rience has since but too often and too clearly proved 
that an event of the kind may be equally " awk- 
ward" for the train as for the cow ; and we, who 
are much wiser in our generation, have really 110 
notion of tempting the chances of a collision that 
might prove equally fatal to the two bodies. 

I may here briefly observe, that the material of 
which we are composed is not luminous in itself, 
but is illuminated by the sun of this, or, in the case 
of those of us who soar into the immensity of space, 
some other solar system. 

We are most capricious and mutable in the forms 
which we assume, though, as a general rule, our 
heads mostly affect the globular or spheroidal shape. 
The magnificent luminous appendages or tails which 
many of \is proudly display, are sometimes straight, 
and sometimes curved like a scimitar. With some 
of us this vapoury train of light attains an immense 
apparent length. Thus, for instance, my brother 
comet of 1811 which, by-the-bye, when first seen, 
possessed no visible tail speedily threw out a 
luminous appendage covering some 25 degrees of 
heaven, or some 130,000,000 of miles. My own 
tail stretches some 11 degrees beyond this; that of 
my brother of 371 B.C., Aristotle tells you, occupied 
some 60 degrees of the heavens ; that of the Comet 
of 1680 covered between 70 and 90 degrees; and 
that of the Comet of 1618 is stated to have extended 
to 1 04 degrees in length ! 

Some of us exhibit more than one tail. My 


brother of 1744, for instance, had no less than six, 
spread out like an immense fan, extending to a dis- 
tance of nearly 30 degrees in length. I have just 
now mentioned that my brother of 1811 was not 
at first provided with an appendage of luminous 
vapour. This is often the case with us. Thus the 
great Comet of 1843 showed at its first appearance 
simply a nucleus, surrounded by a coma; but it 
speedily set about supplying the deficiency, and in 
less than twenty days managed to throw out a most 
magnificent tail, measuring two hundred millions 
of miles, which was generated, accordingly, at the 
rate of 10,000,000 miles a day, the matter composing 
it being propelled through space with a velocity of 
115 miles per second, which is nearly six times that 
of the earth in its orbit, and two hundred and fifty 
times greater than that of a cannon-ball ! 

You are already aware, so I need hardly tell you, 
that we are all of our family most eccentric in 
our motions. To superficial observation we would 
indeed seem to be careering with mad capricious- 
ness along the great highway of space. But if you 
watch our motions more closely, you will find that 
there is the strictest method in this apparent mad- 
ness of our movements, and that we obey the same 
universal law of attraction and gravitation as the 
other celestial bodies some of us moving about the 
sun in parabolic orbits, or at least in ellipses of 
various degrees of eccentricity, and returning in 
determinate periods in the same path (unless dis- 


turbed) ; others running off in hyperbolic orbits, to 
visit other systems in the immensity of space.* 
Most of us come, in fact, into this solar system from 
parts of the universe extending to enormous dis- 
tances beyond its limits, and after approaching 
more or less near to the sun, start off again on our 
journey to distances not less remote. I may, per- 
haps, be permitted here to observe that, with all due 
deference to M. Babinet, and his somewhat con- 
temptuous opinion of us and our uses, I can safely 
affirm that we subserve some better and higher 
purpose in the great economy of the universe than 
enabling your astronomers to verify certain natural 
laws, and to pry into the mysteries of heaven. You 
will not, of course, expect me to tell you what these 
purposes may happen to be depend upon it, you 
will find this out all in good time, by the unaided 
efforts of that marvellous intelligence with which 
it has pleased the Almighty to endow you. This 
much, however, you may take for granted even 
now, that we serve as means of communication 
between system and system. May it not be, also, 
that we serve to gather in our path the detritus 
of old worlds, to be moulded hereafter into new 

* We must here assume the reader to know that an ellipse 
whose major axis is of infinite length, is said to degenerate 
into a parabola. The parabola is that conic section which 
forms the limit between the ellipse on the one hand, which 
returns into itself, and the hyperbola on the other, which 
runs out to infinity. 


spheres ? that we serve to cany to the suns of this 
and other systems the ardent fires with which we 
get impregnated in our passage near Sirius and 
myriads of other suns 1 that we serve to waft 
beings that have passed their probation, from worlds 
immeasurably brighter than yours, to spheres infi- 
nitely more glorious than theirs 1 What a bound- 
less field of speculation is open here to the human 
mind ! of exalted speculation, such as may befit the 
grandeur of the subject, and the vast intellectual 
powers of man, and may henceforward take the 
place of the absurd notions of our influence for 
good or evil to which the superstitious feelings of 
mankind in the darker ages, and even in more 
modern and " enlightened" times, had given birth. 
It seems hardly credible now that our apparition 
in the heavens should ever, at any period of time, 
have been almost universally regarded with feelings 
of awe and terror, and that to us should have been 
ascribed the most malignant influences, and a most 
astonishing diversity of effects, physical, physiolo- 
gical, social, and political. And passing strange 
that even men like Johannes Kepler should not 
have been entirely free from this weakness ! Seneca 
alone among ancient philosophers dared to oppose 
his powerful logic to the superstitious ideas which 
his age, and the ages that had preceded it, enter- 
tained with regard to our apparition in the heavens. 
He, that marvellous double and counterpart of 
the great British philosopher of a later period 


Bacon, equally wise, equally mean declared that 
we moved regularly in orbits fixed by natural laws, 
and expressed his conviction that posterity would 
one day stand aghast at the blindness of his age, 
which could ignore or disregard facts so clear and 

One of the brightest of our family so bright, 
indeed, as to be plainly visible in the daytime, 
happening to make its appearance in the year 44 or 
43 B.C., a short time before or after the assassination 
of Csesar was held to have, if not actually brought 
about the death of the aspiring dictator, at all 
events predicted or attended it as if the heavens 
would be likely to take an interest in the life or 
death of such a " thing of blood and mire !" 

Another Comet the first whose orbit was calcu- 
lated, in 1682, by your illustrious Edmund Halley, 
whose name it bears, and will hand down to the 
remotest ages had, at one of its former appearances, 
in June, 1456, spread terror throughout Europe. 
It was regarded as a most powerful ally of the 
Turkish Sultan, Mohammed II., who had taken 
Constantinople, and threatened to overrun Christian 
Europe with his victorious armies. Pope Calixtus 
II. thought it high time to come to the aid of his 
sorely-pressed flock, and launched the thunders of 
the Vatican against the celestial visitor, who there- 
upon (in due course of time) disappeared from the 
heavens ; the Pope, in order to perpetuate this 
startling manifestation of the power of the Church, 


decreeing and ordaining the bells to be rung at noon, 
a custom observed to the present day in Catholic 
countries. What a curious commentary this doth 
afford on the "infallibility" which the Bishops of 
Rome dare arrogate to themselves ! 

Another of my brethren the very one, in fact, 
whom you have been so anxiously expecting to reap- 
pear ever since February, 1848, but who, according to 
Bomme's calculation, will only rejoice you sometime 
about I860 by a sight of his splendid dimensions 
terrified the Emperor Charles V., in 1556, into con- 
summating the abdication of all his earthly crowns, 
and retirement to a monk's cell in the cloister of St. 
Justus, in Spain, where he who, in the pride and 
arrogance of power, had sought, though vainly 
indeed, to make the millions who obeyed his sceptre 
conform to his own most narrow and bigoted reli- 
gious creed, and in his presumptuous vanity had 
imagined that Heaven's Great Lord had condescended 
to send a comet by way of special messenger to 
him, discovered, though unfortunately rather too 
late, that he could not even make two clocks strike 
alike and at the same time, and felt humbled to 
the dust thereat. 

But enough of these instances of the presumption 
and folly of your kind, which yet are, perhaps, 
less insulting, after all, to the dignity of our family 
than the notion that we occasionally take a delight 
in killing cats, as the splendid Comet of 1668 was 
accused of doing in Westphalia ; or blinding flies, 


destroying wasps, and cursing poor Whitechapel 
shoemakers with four babies at a birth ! or destroy- 
ing cities by an earthquake, knocking down steeple 
clocks in Scotland, and indulging in other undignified 
vagaries of the kind ! 

I have some personal reason, if I may be allowed 
the expression, to take a special interest in the fair 
fame of the Comet of 1668, as there would appear 
to be some chance that I may in the end turn out 
to be identical with that splendid object, to whom 
a period of 16 years has been assigned, and whose 
last recorded appearance bears date 1843. Mind, I 
do not mean to assei't anything positive about this 
matter, which resolves itself simply into a question 
of identity. I know that there is an individual of 
your species waiting for me now at the Cape of 
Good Hope, who will bring his powerful reflector, 
and equally powerful intellect, to bear upon me ; 
and you may well afford to wait till next spring, 
when you will most probably learn from that 
quarter whether lam the real Simon Pure of 1668, 
with a period of 1 6 years, or have a period of some- 
thing like 150 times as long. At all events, surely, 
where learned astronomers disagree, you would not 
ask a poor Comet like me to decide ! 

Even so recently as 1829, a most learned Eng- 
lish medical practitioner, a Mr. T. Forster, made 
a fierce onslaught on the character of Comets 
in general, to whom he ascribes all imaginable ma- 
lignant influences, such as epidemic diseases of all 


kinds, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, 
droughts, and famines ! 

Now, you may believe me, my little friends, we 
are entirely innocent of these dreadful charges 
brought against us ; and I grieve to add, we cannot 
properly claim credit either for the glorious seasons 
that will occasionally coincide with our appearance, 
and for the splendid harvests of corn and wine pro- 
duced therein. It would unquestionably have been 
a proud distinction for me to have had my name asso- 
ciated, as was that of my illustrious predecessor of 
1811, with the wine of this most splendid and 
abundant year 1858 ; but truth will not be trifled 
with : careful statistical researches and comparisons 
of thermal and cometary observations, extending 
over a period of a century, have but too fully esta- 
blished the conclusion that we can claim no influ- 
ence whatsoever on the temperature of the seasons. 
It is your Mr. Arago who has dealt us this heavy 
blow and great discouragement. 

I will now, in conclusion, add a few more words 
about some of the most remarkable of my brethren, 
whose periods have been fixed with more or less 

The most remarkable of these is the great Comet 
known by .the name of Halley's, from the -circum- 
stance of that illustrious geometer, as has already 
been mentioned, having predicted its return. The 
immortal Newton having demonstrated the possi- 
bility of any conic section whatever being described 


about the sun, by a body revolving under the domi- 
nion of the law of gravitation, applied his theory to 
the great Comet of 1680 with the most complete 
success. He ascertained that this Comet described 
about the sun as its focus an elliptic orbit of such 
exceeding eccentricity as to degenerate into a pai-a- 
bola, and that in this orbit the areas described 
about the sun were, as in the planetary ellipses, 
proportional to the times. Two years after, in the 
year 1682, Halley applied the principles of the New- 
tonian theory to cometary bodies, and calculated 
thereby the orbits of several ancient comets, which 
led him to the discovery of a remarkable coincidence 
in the elements of the orbits of certain comets 
which had been observed at nearly equal intervals 
of time in 1531, 1607, and 1682. After mature con- 
sideration, he concluded that these comets must be 
identical, returning at certain fixed periods, and 
ventured to predict another return about the year 
1759. Clairaut, an eminent mathematician of the 
period, undertook to calculate the delay which the 
return of this comet would experience from the 
disturbing influence exercised upon its orbit by the 
larger planets, and fixed the return for spring, 1759. 
True to the appointment, the Comet made its re- 
appearance on the 12th of March of that yeai*, and 
once more 76 years after in October, 1835 as had 
been calculated by several eminent mathematicians. 
The great Comet which appeared in 1680 is sup- 
posed to have a period of 575 years, and to be iden- 


tical with the Comets seen in 1105 and 575, and 
also with that seen in 44 or 43 B.C., of which 
mention has already been made. 

Another great Comet the one which, as I have 
told you, frightened poor Charles V. in 1566, and is 
expected to reappear in 1860 is held to be identical 
with certain comets observed in 104, 683, 975, and 
1264, to which latter attaches the reputation of 
having presaged the death of Pope Urban IV., who 
died on the 2nd October, just when that Comet was 
making its last appearance in the heavens. 

Another, again, which appeared in 1661, is sup- 
posed to be the same as that seen in 243, 891, 1145, 
1402, and 1532. 

The Comet discovered by Olbers, in 1815, in the 
constellation Musca, has a period of 74 years. 
Some of our family revolve in comparatively short 
periods round the sun. One of the most remark- 
able of these is the one called Encke's Comet so 
named from Professor Encke, x>f Berlin, who first 
ascertained its periodical return. This Comet re- 
volves round the sun in the short period of 3g 
years; it has been observed in 1786, 1795, 1805, 
1818, and regularly ever after, there being, how- 
ever, a very strange and anomalous circumstance 
connected with it viz., that its periods of revolution 
are found to be successively and equably shorter, a 
circumstance which forebodes its ultimate fall into 
the sun, unless it should previously be dissipated 
altogether a termination of its career by no means 


unlikely, and to which, many members of our family 
are liable. 

Another Comet of short period is the one called 
after Mr. Biela, of Josephstadt, who, at its appa- 
rition in 1826, identified it with Comets that had 
appeared in 1772 and 1805. The time of its revo- 
lution is about 6 1 years. It has since been observed 
in 1832, 1839, 1845-6, and 1852 in the two last 
years as a double Comet.* 

A Comet discovered by M. Faye, in 1843, describes 
an elliptic orbit in a period of 7| years, and has been 
observed on its return in 1850. 

Two other Comets the one discovered by De Vico, 
in 1844, the other by Brorsen, in 1846 have each a 
period of about 5^ years. Another, finally, disco- 
vered by d' Arrest, in 1851, in the constellation 
Pisces, has a period of 7 years. 

Before I take my final leave of you, 1 may still 

* At the return of Biela's Comet, in 1845-6, a most sin- 
gular phenomenon was observed. The Comet appeared at 
first, as usual, as a single body ; but on its approach towards 
perihelion it was, on the 1 3th January, 1846, for the first time, 
seen to be attended by another Comet considerably fainter, at 
a distance of about 2'. This distance continued steadily to 
increase, with a corresponding change in the comparative 
brightness of the two Comets, till the companion Comet be- 
came as bright as the original, and subsequently brighter, 
exhibiting a star-like nucleus ; a very short time after, how- 
ever, the original Comet gained again in brilliancy on its 
companion, which finally disappeared some time before the 
other ceased to be observed. 


mention that, though now universally known as 
" Donati's Comet," Professor Donati, of Florence, 
enjoying the credit and reputation of having 
"sighted" me first, on the 2nd June, 1858 a recla- 
mation has been put in by Dr. Winneke, of Bonn, 
who declares having discovered me as early as the 
9th March ; and by Father Neslhuber, Director of 
the Kremsmiinster Observatory, who professes to 
have seen me in the constellation Aquila, on the 
19th March. Dr. Bruhns, of Berlin, has calculated 
that I complete my revolution round the sun in an 
eccentric ellipse, in a period of 2,100 years; my 
greatest distance from the sun, which it will take 
me 1,050 years to reach, being about 31,506,000,000 

And now, farewell ! till our next meeting. Me- 
thinks I hear you exclaim, that this is scant and 
meagre information indeed. Patience, my little 
friends ; at my next appearance whenever that may 
be I trust I may be in a position to tell a different 
and more circumstantial and satisfactory " Tale of a 


" Nor is the stream 
Of purest crystal, nor the lucid air, 
Though one transparent vacancy it seems, 
Void of their unseen people." THOMSON. 

THE revelations of the telescope are not more 
astounding than those of the microscope. The 
human eye can only range over a finite portion of 
the universe, but aided by these magic instruments 
its sphere of research is greatly augmented. The 
one familiarizes the mind with the rolling orbs of 
the infinitely distant world, while the other enables 
us to examine the marvellous inhabitants of that 
which is infinitely minute. 

Single microscopes,* in the form of glass globes 
containing water, were used by the ancients, and in 
course of time these crystal bubbles gave place 
to hemispheres of glass, and these in their turn to 
lenses. The compound microscope, consisting of 

* The term microscope is derived from two Greek words, 
the first signifying a small object, and the latter to see or 


two lenses placed at a distance, so that the one next 
the eye magnifies the enlarged image of any object 
placed in front of the other, was invented by a 
spectacle-maker at Middleburg, in Holland, about 
the year 1590. This Dutch microscope, rudely 
formed of two lenses and a wooden tube, was the 
germ of the beautiful and complex instrument of 
modern times. Let us now peep through this 
wondrous spy-glass into the invisible world. 

In a single drop of stagnant water we may dis- 
cover a world of marvellous creatures, whose eccen- 
tric forms baffle description. In some of these tiny 
monsters it is not easy to detect any definite shape, 
as their bodies are destitute of any solid support, 
and seem to be composed of gelatinous matter, 
which may take almost any figure. In others, 
there is still a considerable variety in the forms 
assumed by the same individual under different 
circumstances, but the prevailing shape can be re- 
cognised. In others, again, the body, although 
still unprotected by any firm envelope, appears to 
undergo little change in figure, except when affected 
by temporary pressure. But there are many that 
cannot be influenced even by pressure, their soft 
bodies being inclosed in coats of flinty mail. All 
these creatures move about in the water with great 
rapidity, yet they have neither arms, legs, nor fins. 
Their movements are performed by means of pecu- 
liar processes called cilia, which resemble minute 
hairs. So active are these cilia, and such restless 


little fellows are those to whom they belong, that 
it is impossible to conceive a more animated scene 
than that presented to the eye of the microscopic 
observer in the examination of a drop of water. 

The waters of the earth teem with these minute 
forms of existence; but as their presence was first 
detected in certain infusions of vegetable matter, 
they were named Infusoria a term which they have 
been allowed to retain, though it is now known 
that their sphere of existence embraces all the 
aqueous portions of the globe. We have said that 
their quaint forms baffle description; but we will 
endeavour to give the reader some idea, however 
inadequate, of one or two individuals of the infu- 
sorial race. 

The smallest and the most active members of this 
immense family are the Monads, which so thickly 
populate the invisible world, that Ehrenberg has 
declared that a selected drop of water may actually 
contain as many as there are human beings upon 
the surface of the great globe itself ! These minute 
creatures are always in motion, and may be seen 
bustling about in every part of the drop to them a 
mighty sea as though their health and happiness 
depended on constant exercise. 

The little creatures, or rather the congeries of crea- 
tures, called the Volvox, and formerly known as the 
globe animalcule, is not the least remarkable of this 
group. It consists of a number of monads, invested 
by a common envelope, each individual maintaining 


in some mysterious way an organic connexion with 
its companions. It is not easy to understand how 
a number of distinct beings can move in such per- 
fect unison as to be frequently mistaken for a single 
animalcule. Yet so it is; this group of monads 
rolls round and round the drop of water, with the 
peculiar revolving or spinning movement which has 
given rise to its distinctive appellation of volvox, 
just as if it were a simple being. Six or eight 
young volvoces may generally be seen through the 
transparent envelope, from which they make their 
escape when sufficiently developed to become the 
envelopes of new broods. 

The Rotifer a form a class even more interesting 
than the monads. The animals of this class have 
usually an elongated form, and are perfectly sym- 
metrical on the two sides. Near the mouth we 
observe one or two rows of delicate cilia, which are 
frequently arranged in a circular manner; and when 
they are in motion, an appearance of revolving 
wheels is produced, from which the class derives its 
appellation. The common wheel animalcule was 
long a puzzle to philosophers, who were forced to 
invent many marvellous hypotheses to explain the 
motion of the pair of paddle-wheels with which 
this little creature is furnished. We must not 
always believe our own eyes for the two little 
wheels on the anterior part of the body of this roti- 
fer, which seem to be always turning round on their 
axes, are really stationary. The motion is now 


allowed to be an optical illusion produced by the 
motion of the two circular rows of cilia on the fore 
part of the body. These cilia lash the surrounding 
waters into a miniature whirlpool, into which innu- 
merable animalcules are drawn, to be swallowed by 
the voracious rotifer, who is provided with a for- 
midable set of crushing teeth, and a most efficient 
digestive apparatus. The movements of these 
strange animals are active and varied. Sometimes 
they will attach themselves by the tail to a fixed 
object, and set their cilia in motion to entrap un- 
wary monads ; then they will pack up their wheels 
and swim freely through the water, or crawl along 
a solid surface after the manner of a leech. Some 
of the rotifera may be completely dried up and pre- 
served for an indefinite time, without the loss of their 
vitality. But put one of these withered animal- 
cules in water, and in an hour's time you will see 
him return to life, though he may have been appa- 
rently dead for many years ! The multiplication of 
the rotifera is extremely rapid, twenty-four hours 
being a sufficient period for an individual to be born, 
be developed, and to become itself a parent ! The 
reader must not forget that all these wonderful facts 
are related of a living being not quite the thirty-sixth 
part of an inch in length a mere speck in the 
visible world ! 

Let us pause for a moment in our examination, 
to reflect upon these marvellous revelations. How 
perfect are the works of the Divine Hand! Not 


long since we allowed our imagination to penetrate 
the unfathomable ocean of space, wherein " God's 
name is writ in worlds;" and now as we peep into 
a drop of water, we find in the structure of its mar- 
vellous inhabitants evidences of the same Almighty 
Wisdom that conceived the harmonious arrangement 
of the celestial orbs. It has been truly said, that 
the smallest living object in the world is in itself, 
and for the part it is destined to perform in nature, 
as perfect as the largest. 

The plants of the invisible world outvie the ani- 
mals in strangeness and beauty. We call them 
plants, though they are utterly unlike the vegetable 
forms of the visible world. All these beings are 
endowed with powers of motion, and were until 
quite recently regarded as animals. In nature there 
is no line of demarcation between the two organic 
kingdoms, and these moving plants seem to form 
the link which renders the chain of being complete. 
The Diatomacece, or diatoms, are by far the most 
abundant forms of microscopic vegetation, and we 
will therefore devote some space to their considera- 
tion. In shape, these beings resemble mathematical 
figures of minute dimensions, rather than vegetable 
organisms; and appear to us as living circles, ovals, 
polygons, triangles, and stars. 

The movements of the diatoms are due to the 
cilia, or eyelashes, with which they are furnished; 
but it is a disputed point whether these cilia act in 
obedience to a will, or whether their motion is due 


to a physical force acting independently of any con- 
trolling power. Adopting the latter view of ciliary 
motion, a clever writer has compared the moving 
diatom to a little steamer with the fires lighted and 
the paddles going, but without a crew, a pilot, or a 

The distinguishing peculiarity of the Diatomacecr 
is, that they possess a solid framework of flint, their 
vegetable matter being merely a delicate investing 
membrane. The trees of the forest, having passed 
through their s\iccessive stages of development, 
undergo the process of decay, their constituents 
being dissipated as invisible gases; but the tiny 
diatoms are indestructible, and their constantly- 
accumulating skeletons are gradually being depo- 
sited in beds beneath the waters which cover three- 
fifths of the surface of this planet. 

" At first," says a celebrated naturalist, " the 
effect produced by things so small thousands of 
which might be contained in a drop, and millions 
packed together in a cubic inch may appear of 
trifling moment, when speaking of so grand an 
operation as the deposition of submarine strata. 
But each moment has its value in the measurement 
of time, to whatever extent of ages the succession 
may be prolonged; so each of these atoms has a 
definite relation to space, and their constant pro- 
duction and deposition will at length result in 
mountains. The examination of the most ancient 
of the stratified rocks, and of all others in the as- 


cending scale, and the investigation of deposits now 
in the course of formation, teach us that, from the 
first dawn of animated nature up to the present 
hour, this prolific family has never ceased its 
activity. England may boast that the sun never 
sets upon her empire; but here is an ocean-realm 
whose subjects are literally more numerous than 
the sands of the sea. We cannot count them by 
millions simply, but by hundreds of thousands of 
millions. Indeed, it is futile to speak of numbers 
in relation to things so uncountable. Extensive 
rocky strata, chains of hills, beds of marl, almost 
every description of soil, whether superficial or 
raised from a great depth, contain the remains of 
these little plants, in greater or less abundance. 
Some tracts of country are literally built up of 
their skeletons. No country is destitute of such 
monuments; and in some they constitute the lead- 
ing features in the structure of the soil. The world 
is a vast catacomb of Diatomacece; nor is the growth 
of those old dwellers on the earth diminished in its 
latter days!"* 

Whether living or dead, diatoms are very beau- 
tiful objects under the microscope; but it is im- 
possible to give in words a distinct idea of their 
complex forms and delicate markings. In the 
muddy waters of the Thames we meet with some 
lovely varieties. Amongst them we may find one or 
two which may be roughly compared with some 
* Doctor Harvey. 


familiar objects belonging to the visible world. A 
many-spoked wheel, divested of its felly, will give 
the reader some idea of a common diatom;* but he 
must imagine the spokes to be formed of innume- 
rable pieces joined together with the utmost nicety, 
and to be inserted in the nave with far greater 
regularity than that attainable by any human 
wheelwright. Yet this delicate wheel is formed of 
the hardest flint, and is so minute that its spokes 
are less than the three-hundredth part of an inch 
in length ! 

Another diatom has the appearance of a piece of 
lace edging, with crossing threads and oval openings 
arranged in a beautiful and perfectly regular pat- 
tern. t Another resembles a chain of flat beads, or 
rather, an open bracelet formed of oblong tablets. 
This simile, however, is far from being perfect; for 
the living tablets of the diatom are neither strung 
upon threads, nor connected by hinges, but are joined 
in some inexplicable manner at their corners. J 

The boat- shaped diatoms, or Naviculce, are per- 
haps the most beautiful of this minute family. One 
of them, an unnamed variety, has been thus de- 
scribed by an anonymous writer : "The tiny bark is 
a boat of cut rock-crystal, fit to float across a sea of 
light; itself might almost be believed to be fashioned 
out of solidified light. The central line must be the 
keel; the translucent planking is clearly visible; 
and around the sides are cut symmetrical notches, to 
* Aaterionella. t Fragilaria. Bacillaria. 


serve as rullocks for ethereal rowers to navigate 
this brilliant gondola." In Thames water, Naviculce 
exist in great abundance, the most common form 
being that of an Indian canoe, with a gracefully 
curved prow.* 

The flint which forms the skeleton of the diatom, 
and the armour of the animalcule, is withdrawn 
from its solution in the waters inhabited by these 
minute organisms by some mysterious operation of 
the vital force. So prolific are these tiny forms of 
life, that it has been estimated that a single animal- 
cule can increase to such an extent during one 
month, that its entire descendants can form a bed 
of silica or flint twenty-five square miles in extent, 
and one foot and three-quarters thick ! " As a 
parallel to Archimedes," says Bischof, " who declared 
he could move the earth if he had a lever long 
enough, we may say : Give us a mailed animalcule, 
and with it we will in a short time separate all the 
carbonate of lime and silica from the ocean !" 

This leads us to consider more minutely the part 
played by the animals and plants of the invisible 
world in the formation of the beds of rock which 
form the solid crust of our globe. Twenty years 
ago Professor Ehrenberg discovered a wonderful bed 
of earth which was almost entirely composed of 
living infusoria, and which extended to twenty, and, 
in some localities, even to sixty feet in depth. 
This formation is situated in Berlin, at a depth of 
* Navicula hippocampus. 


about fifteen feet below the pavement of the city. 
How life is sustained in this subterranean world of 
infusoria is a mystery, since it is evident that the 
organisms cannot come in contact with any air ex- 
cept that which is contained in the water which 
percolates through the mass. 

This discovery was followed by others equally 
astounding. A mass, more than twenty feet in 
thickness, of light silicious earth, was found at 
Ebsdorf, in Hanover, and, on examination by the 
microscope, it appeared that this earth consisted 
entirely of the minute shields of invisible infusoria. 
Again, the beds of silicious marls upon which the 
towns of Richmond and Petersburg, in Virginia, 
are built, are now known to be almost wholly made 
up of the skeletons of diatomaccee. The forms that 
predominate are elegant saucer-shaped shields, ela- 
borately ornamented with hexagonal spots disposed 
in curves, and resembling the engine-turned sculp- 
turing on a watch. They vary in size froTn the 
one-hundredth to the one-thousandth of an inch in 

We need not carry our microscope out of England 

to discover the remains of infusoria in the earth's 

crust. The white chalk which underlies or forms 

the surface of the south-eastern part of England, is 

a mere aggregation of microscopic shell and corals, 

so minute that upwards of a million of the former 

are contained in a single cubic inch of this well- 

* Dr. Mantell. 



known substance. These little shells, which remind 
us of those of the nautili, are the calcareous enve- 
lopes of the animalcules termed foraminifera, which 
abound in modern seas, and are constantly contri- 
buting to the amount of sediment now forming in 
the bed of the ocean. The beautiful white stone 
called calcaire grassier, which furnishes the inhabi- 
tants of Paris with a cheap and inexhaustible supply 
of building material, has almost the same structure 
as chalk ; and Professor Ansted has observed that 
the capital of France, as well as the towns and 
villages of the neighbouring departments, are almost 
entirely built of foraminifera. 

These stupendous results produced by the agency 
of creatures that are separately invisible to the 
naked eye, direct our thoughts to the Creator who 
has thought fit to endow these living atoms with 
powers that render them such important instruments 
in effecting the changes in the earth's surface, which 
His infinite wisdom has planned. 

Let us quit the infusoria and glance with our 
microscopic eye at some other marvellous objects 
belonging to the invisible world. If we look through 
our magic tube at the downy mould formed upon 
any decaying substance, a wonderful forest of deli- 
cate thread-like plants will be revealed. These 
beautiful fungi will be seen to multiply and grow, 
to swell and finally to burst, scattering their invi- 
sible spores into the surrounding air. 

If we make use of our microscope to examine the 


eggs of insects we shall have cause to wonder at 
their elaborate carving and beautiful forms. It is 
impossible to convey to the reader an adequate idea 
of the elegant design and delicate sculpturing of some 
of these insect-eggs ; few of which, be it observed, 
are what is commonly termed egg-shaped. It is im- 
possible to account for the strange diversities of 
form in these egglets ; thus, in the small and great 
peacock butterflies, which differ in little but size, 
the egg of the first is a cylinder with eight promi- 
nent ribs, while that of the latter is shaped like a 
Florence flask and has no ribs. Why the little peacock 
should escape from a barrel, and the big one from a 
bottle, is a problem as yet unsolved. Here are the 
eggs of four different members of the butterfly 
family. To the unaided eye they appear mere un- 
interesting dots, about the size of a pin's head, but 
if we examine them microscopically, we shall find 
that nature has spared no pains in decorating these 
minute objects. One of these eggs is an elegant 
turban, having a round button in the centre of the 
depressed crown ; another is a very elaborate pound- 
cake ; the third a fairy foot ball, covered with a 
network of extremely minute hexagonal meshes ; 
and the fourth is a little spherical summer-house of 
rustic-work roofed with flat tiles. The last simile 
is a little strained, as it is not easy to imagine a 
rustic arbour shaped like a balloon, but we must 
remind the reader that we meet with forms in the 
invisible world that cannot be likened to any object 


that exists within the sphere of unaided vision. 
The smaller insects deposit eggs that are still more 
curious than those of the butterflies and moths. 
The egg of the lace-fly is like an unripe cherry with 
a long white transparent stem ; that of the blow- 
fly like a white cucumber with longitudinal stripes ; 
and that deposited by the bug has been well com- 
pared to a circular game-pie with a standing crust, 
the lid of which is lifted when the young one makes 
its exit after hatching. 

The microscope reveals many wonderful peculi- 
arities of structure in the beings whose eggs we 
have just examined. The coloured dust of the 
butterfly's wing turns out to be feathery-scales of a 
tapering form, with deeply-cut notches at their broad 
end. The hairs of the bee are seen to be thickly 
beset with still finer hairs. The smallest fly is 
found to possess an elaborate pumping apparatus or 
trunk, compared with which the pumps constructed 
by man are clumsy and inefficient. The eyes of 
insects are composite, each visible eye being made 
up of thousands that are invisible ; no less than 
twenty thousand of these minute organs have been 
detected by means of the microscope in the head of 
the hawk-moth. But our space is limited, and we 
dare not enter any further into the subject of insect 

The dust of the butterfly's wing is remarkable 
enough, but the fertilizing dust or pollen that covers 
the stamens of flowers, appears still more curious to 


the microscopic eye. Pollen varies greatly in dif- 
ferent plants. An author, who seems to have a 
happy knack of finding similes for indescribable 
objects, says that the rose and poppy have pollen 
like grains of wheat magnified into semi-transparent 
weavers' shuttles ; that of the mallow, he tells us, 
resembles cannon-balls covered with spikes ; the 
fuchsia has pollen like bits of half-melted sticky 
sugar-candy, with which a small quantity of horse- 
hair has become entangled ; and the passion-flower 
has pollen grains resembling Chinese carved ivory 

The microscope has revealed strange little fissures 
and cavities in minerals, the latter containing fluids, 
groups of crystals, and floating balls. Even the 
diamond, topaz, garnet, and other precious stones, 
have these minute cavities. 

Here we must stop, or our fairy-tale will wear 
out the patience of the reader. We have glanced 
at a few of the marvels of the invisible world 
through that wonderful spy-glass which science has 
recently brought to a high state of perfection, and 
which day by day adds to our knowledge of minute 
things. Our examination has necessarily been im- 
perfect, for it would be an easier task to enumerate 
all the visible objects upon the face of the earth, 
than to describe the countless forms that exist in 
the invisible world. 

SHonhrfiil limits. 


" Give me to drain the cocoa's milky bowl, 
And from the palm to draw its freshening wine." 


THE wonderful plants portrayed by our artist are 
scarcely more wonderful than some of the vegetable 
productions of this bounteous earth. The little boy 
may well be astonished to see such a wonderful crop 
of good things ; but if he will only stop and think 
a little he will find that plum-puddings, mince-pies, 
and wearing apparel do really grow, or, more strictly 
speaking, they spring from the wonderful plants 
which actually exist. Consider the composition of 
that famous pudding which crowns the fanciful 
group on the preceding page. The currants and 
raisins, the sugar, almonds, and candied lemon-peel 
which are its principal ingredients, are all vegetable 
productions ; and the suet and eggs may be described 
as animalized grass and barley, for they are formed 
out of the vegetable food of the ox and the hen. 
The plum-pudding tree is not half so preposterous a 
conception as it appears to be at the first glance. 


In the present chapter we propose to consider 
some of the most striking productions of the vege- 
table kingdom. We shall not attempt to preserve 
any sort of order in our rapid review, but will jump 
from one country to another, and throw aside all 
the elaborate systems of classification that have 
been devised by botanists. We will promise to 
bring some wonderful plants before the reader's 
notice, but we will not bind ourselves to any scien- 
tific rules. 

The imaginary plum-pudding tree naturally sug- 
gests the bread-fruit of the islands of the Pacific, 
that wonderful plant that bears a crop of penny 
rolls. The bread-fruit is a beautiful as well as a 
useful tree. Its trunk rises to a height of about 
forty feet, and when full grown is from a foot to 
fifteen inches in diameter. The branches come out 
in a horizontal manner, becoming shorter and 
shorter as they near the top. The leaves are of a 
rich green, are nearly two feet long, and deeply 
gashed or divided at the edges. 

As for its marvellous fruit, we cannot do better 
than quote the words of Captain Dampier, who first 
described it in 1688. "The fruit," says this cele- 
brated navigator, " grows on the boughs like apples; 
it is as big as a penny loaf when wheat is at five 
shillings the bushel ; it is of a round shape, and hath a 
thick tough rind. When the fruit is ripe it is yellow 
and soft, and the taste is sweet and pleasant. The 
natives use it for bread. They gather it when full 


grown, while it is green and hard ; then they bake 
it in an oven which scorcheth the rind and maketh it 
black ; but they scrape off the outside black crust, 
and there remains a tender thin crust; and the in- 
side is soft, tender, and white, like the crumb of a 
penny loaf. There is neither seed nor stone in the 
inside, but all of a pure substance like bread. It 
must be eaten now, for if it be kept above twenty- 
four hours, it grows harsh and choky, but it is very 
pleasant before it is too stale. This fruit lasts in 
season eight months in the year, during which the 
natives eat no other sort of bread." This quaint 
description is singularly accurate, and has been con- 
firmed by many modern travellers. The timber of 
the bread-fruit, though soft, is much used by the 
natives in the construction of houses and boats; 
the flowers, when dried, form a sort of tinder; the 
viscous fluid that oozes from the trunk serves for 
bird-lime and glue; the leaves are used for towels; 
and from the inner bark a coarse kind of cloth is 
made. Thus we see that food and raiment grow on 
this wonderful plant. 

The cabbage-palm of Surinam is another of our 
wonderful plants. This gigantic tree has a stem 
about seven feet in circumference at the base, which 
ascends straight and tapering to a vast height, and 
bears a plume of graceful foliage. The cabbage lies 
concealed within the leaves that surround the top 
of the trunk. It is about two or three feet loner 


and as thick as a man's arm. When eaten raw, it 


greatly resembles the almond in flavour, but is much 
more tender and delicious. It is generally cut into 
pieces, boiled, and served up with meat. 

" To obtain this small portion," says Dr. Lan- 
kaster, " borne on the pinnacle of the tree, and 
hidden from the eye of man, the axe is applied to 
the stately trunk, and this majestic lord of the moun- 
tain top is laid low, to furnish a small quantity of 
vegetable matter, which is eaten like cauliflower, 
and which receives its distinctive name from our 
lowly cabbage. Surely this rivals the tales handed 
down to us of Roman epicurism !" 

The reader has doubtless heard of the cow-tree of 
South America, which yields an abundant supply of 
milk to the Indian of the Cordilleras, and flourishes 
at a vast height amid arid mountains where no cattle 
can pasture. This wonderful plant has been de- 
scribed by Humboldt with his characteristic spirit 
and accuracy. " On the side of a thirsty rock," 
says the great traveller, " grows a tree whose 
leaves are dry and husky. Its large roots peneti'ate 
with difficulty through the stony soil. During 
many months of the year not a shower waters its 
foliage; the branches appear withered and dead; 
but when its trunk is pierced, a sweet and nourish- 
ing milk flows from the wound. It is at the rising 
of the sun that this vegetable aliment is most 
plentiful. The natives and the black slaves then 
gather together from all parts with large wooden 
vessels to catch the milk, which as it flows becomes 


yellow, and thickens on the surface. Some make 
their abundant meal at the foot of the tree which 
supplies it; others carry their full vessels home to 
their children." 

Our reader will not question the utility of writing- 
paper, though he may possibly deem this substance 
of inferior importance to either bread, cabbage, or 
milk. The poets and sages of antiquity did not 
write their immortal works upon "foolscap," but 
upon natural paper, furnished by the papyrus a 
reed-like plant, growing in the waters of the Nile. 
The stem of this wonderful plant is triangular, and 
shoots up gracefully to the height of some fifteen or 
twenty feet, its slender top bearing a tuft of thread- 
like leaves. 

The inner bark of the stem was divided into 
thin plates or pellicles, each as large as the plant 
would admit. These plates, which were necessarily 
very narrow, were then laid side by side, with their 
edges touching, on a smooth hard surface ; and then 
other pieces were laid across them, so as to form a 
sheet of many pieces, which required adhesion to 
become one united substance. The whole was then 
moistened with Nile water, and subjected to pres- 
sure ; and in this manner the sheet Avas formed, 
for the glutinous sap contained in the plant suf- 
ficed to cement the various pieces together. The 
plates procured from the central portions of the 
stem were the most valuable, and were used to 
form varieties of paper equivalent to our " cream- 


laid" and " satin-wove" post. The papyrus must 
look down upon its aquatic companions with 
supreme contempt, for it can boast of a long line 
of ancestors, whose delicate under-skins served to 
perpetuate the sublime thoughts conceived by the 
giant intellects of the past. 

The fan-palm of Ceylon is another paper-tree. Its 
stem attains a great height, and is surmounted by 
many large palmated leaves, the lobes or divisions 
of which are very long, and are arranged round a 
foot-stalk, like the ribs of an umbrella. Indeed, 
these compound leaves are actually used as umbrellas 
by the Cingalese, a single out-spreading leaf afford- 
ing ample shelter for seven or eight people. All 
the religious books of the Cingalese are written, or 
rather engraved, on tablets plucked from this won- 
derful palm, the leaves of the book being simply the 
leaflets of the tree. 

The palms are all wonderful plants, from what- 
ever point of view we may regard them. The 
services they render man are incalculable. The 
date palm gives him its nourishing fruit, the cocoa 
palm its milky nuts, the sago palm its farinaceous 
pith, and the Palmyra palm its sweet juice, which 
becomes wine by fermentation. Then, as for useful 
things that are neither eatable nor drinkable, the 
palm tribe furnishes vegetable oil, wax, and ivory, 
fibres that may be formed into cordage, leaves that 
may be used for thatching, and timber that may 
be applied to a hundred different purposes. 


The wax-bearing palm is called the pashiuba, 
and its peculiar form, were it remarkable for 
nothing else, would entitle it to a place among 
our wonderful plants. Its slender stem shoots up 
to the height of some fifty or sixty feet, and is 
strangely supported by a tall open cone of roots. 

" But what most strikes attention in this tree, 
and renders it so peculiar, is, that the roots are 
almost entirely above ground. They spring out 
from the stem, each one at a higher point than the 
last, and extend diagonally downwards till they ap- 
proach the ground, when they often divide into 
many rootlets, each of which secures itself in the 
soil. As fresh ones spring out from the stem, those 
below become rotten and die off; and it is not an 
uncommon thing to see a lofty tree supported en- 
tirely by three or four roots, so that a person may 
walk erect beneath them, or stand with a tree seventy 
feet high growing immediately over his head. In the 
forests where these trees grow, numbers of young 
plants of every age may be seen, all miniature copies 
of their parents, except that they seldom possess 
more than three legs, which give them a strange 
and almost ludicrous appearance."* 

These aerial roots are not peculiar to the pa- 
shiuba palm. In the mangrove, a wonderful plant 
that grows on the sea-shore in tropical countries, 
the trunk springs from the union of a number of 
slender arches formed by the roots, whose extremi- 
* Wallace's "Palms of the Amazon." 


ties penetrate into the muddy soil. " The larger 
arches," says Mr. Gosse, " send out secondary shoots 
from their sides, which take the same curved form, 
but in a direction at right angles to the former : 
and thus a complex array of vaulted lines is 
formed, which to the crabs that run beneath if 
they were able to institute the comparison, must be 
like the roof-groins of some Gothic church, supposing 
the interspaces to be open to the sky." 

But the wonder of wonders in this shore-loving 
plant, is the premature germination of its long club- 
shaped seeds. Each seed begins to grow while 
hanging from the twig, gradually lengthening until 
the tip reaches the soft soil, which it penetrates, and 
thus roots itself. The seeds which depend from the 
higher branches cannot stretch themselves out to a 
sufficient length to reach the mud ; they therefore 
drop as soon as they feel themselves strong enough 
to commence an independent existence. In this 
manner a dense forest of mangroves is speedily pro- 
duced from a single trunk. Dampier has described 
such a forest with his usual accuracy. 

" The red mangrove," he says, " groweth com- 
monly by the sea side, or by rivers or creeks. It 
always grows out of many roots, about the bigness 
of a man's leg, some bigger, some less, which at 
about six, eight, or ten feet above the ground, join 
into one trunk or body, that seems to be supported 
by so many artificial stakes. Where this sort of 
tree grows, it is impossible to march by reason of 


these stakes, which grow so mixed one among 
another, that I have, when forced to go through 
them, gone half a mile, and never set my foot on 
the ground, stepping from root to root." 

There is a species of cane that must surely be 
considered a wonderful plant, for, though no thicker 
than the little finger, it is sometimes a quarter of a 
mile in length. This vegetable cord is studded with 
sharp prickles, by means of which it is enabled to 
cling to the leaves and branches of the various trees 
which it encounters in its serpentine course. 

The gum-trees of the Australian forests resemble 
our own timber trees in form, but their leaves, in- 
stead of being extended horizontally so as to catch 
the falling rain, are placed edgewise, and thus allow 
the rain -drops and the sun's rays to pass between 
them. Near these wonderful trees, which afford no 
shelter, may be found the grass-tree, displaying 
what seems to be an immense tuft of wiry grass 
elevated on the summit of a dark ungainly trunk. 
A number of tall spikes of blossom, resembling 
bulrushes, spring from the centre of the grassy 
crown, and render this wonderful plant still more 

The famous banyan-tree must not be omitted, for 
it would be difficult to find a plant to which the 
epithet "wonderful" could be applied with greater 
propriety. This sacred tree of the Hindoos attains 
a prodigious size, sometimes covering an area of 
nearly 2000 square yards, for its lateral branches 


send down shoots which take root, till, in course of 
time, a single tree becomes a vast umbrageous tent, 
supported by numerous columns. The poet has 
thus described this marvel of the vegetable king- 
dom : 

" Branching so broad along, that in the ground 
The bending twigs take root ; and daughters grow 
About the mother tree ; a pillared shade 
High over-arched, with echoing walks between. 
There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat, 
Shelters in cool ; and tends his pasturing herds 
At loop-holes cut through thickest shade." 

Turn we now to plants much smaller but not less 
wonderful than those we have mentioned. The 
mean-looking little plant called the .Fly-trap of 
Venus, is gifted with sensation which compensates 
for its want of beauty. Each leaf is formed into 
two halves, which move on a central hinge, and fold 
up and contract on the slightest contact. The 
edges are beset with spines, and the whole surface 
is covered with a sticky mucilage. No sooner does 
an unfortunate fly alight on one of these ticklish 
leaves than the two halves spring together, and the 
insect is made a prisoner. There are other irrita- 
ble plants, which ought to be mentioned here. The 
leaves of the sensitive mimosa shrink from the 
slightest touch, while those of the Hedysarum 
gyrans have a spontaneous motion, and appear to 
dance about from pure buoyancy of spirits. 

The pitcher-plant, with its marvellous lidded 


goblet, is another member of the class wonderful ; 
so is the caricature-plant, whose spotted leaves bear 
such a striking resemblance to human faces. The 
orchids, whose flowers mimic the forms of various 
insects ; and the cacti, whose quaint shapes render 
them so remarkable, ought to be included in our 
review of wonderful plants; but this list must ne- 
cessarily be imperfect, as the wonders of the vege- 
table world are innumei-able. We have merely 
selected a few striking forms of vegetable life, to 
show the reader that botany, as well as the other 
sciences, has its marvels. 

But are not all plants wonderful ? If we examine 
minutely the structure of the humblest moss, we 
may discover wonders which fill the mind with 
admiration and astonishment. We may fitly con- 
clude this rambling chapter with an anecdote re- 
lated by one of the earliest African explorers, who 
found consolation, when in the depth of misery, in 
the contemplation of one of the wonderful plants 
with which the Creator has been pleased to deck 
this beautiful earth. 

" In this forlorn and almost helpless condition," 
writes Mungo Park, " when the robbers had left 
me, I sat for some time looking around me with 
amazement and terror; whatever way I turned, 
nothing appeared but danger and difficulty. I 
found myself in the midst of a vast wilderness, in 
the depth of the rainy season, naked and alone, sur- 
rounded by savage animals, and by men still more 


savage. I was five hundred miles from any Euro- 
pean settlement. All these circumstances crowded 
at once on my recollection, and I confess that my 
spirits began to fail me; I considered my fate as 
certain, and that I had no alternative but to lie 
down and perish. 

" The influence of religion, however, aided and 
supported me. I reflected that no human prudence 
or foresight could possibly have averted my present 
sufferings; I was indeed a stranger in a strange 
land, yet I was still under the protecting eye of 
that God who has condescended to call himself the 
stranger's friend. At this moment, painful as my 
reflections were, the extraordinary beauty of a small 
moss caught my eye; and though the whole plant 
was not larger than the top of one of my fingers, I 
could not contemplate the delicate conformation of 
its roots, leaves, and fruit, without admiration. 

" Can that Being, thought I, who planted, 
watered, and brought to perfection, in this obscure 
part of the world, a thing which appears of so small 
importance, look with unconcern upon the situation 
and sufferings of creatures formed after his own 
image? Surely not! Reflections like these would 
not allow me to despair. I started up, and dis- 
regarding both hunger and fatigue, travelled on- 
wards, assured that relief was at hand; and I was 
not disappointed." 

" The ice is here, the ice is there, 
The ice is all around ; 

It cracks and growls, and roars and howls, 
Like noises in a swound." 

THE attention of scientific men has of late been 
directed to the structure and movement of glaciers, 
those vast accumulations of ice that fill up the deep 
valleys of mountains whose summits are covered by 
perpetual snow. These glaciers form the moving 
lands which we are about to consider for the edifica- 
tion of our reader. The facts that we have to bring 
forward relating to these " gigantic icicles" will 
doubtless be new to the majority of our readers, as 
they have not yet found their way into elementary 
scientific treatises. In selecting our faiiy tales from 
the copious budget of science, we have never lost 
sight of novelty, but have endeavoured to elucidate 
the most recent discoveries. 

As we ascend a lofty mountain the air becomes 
colder and colder, and at a certain elevation we 
enter the regions of eternal snow. The vegetation 


that clothes the slopes undergoes a corresponding 
change, and at the margin of the snow we find 
plants resembling those of the arctic circle. 

In the upper regions of the ice-world water 
descends from the clouds in the form of snow but 
never in the form of rain. The average fall of 
snow, in the region of the Swiss Alps, from 8000 
to 10,000 feet above the level of the sea, has been 
estimated at sixty feet, that is to say, sufficient 
snow descends in one year to form a bed of this 
thickness. What becomes of all this frozen water? 
How is it that the mountains do not become top- 
heavy 1 Be patient, gentle reader, we shall be in a 
position to answer these momentous questions soon, 
but at present we must confine our attention to the 
structure of the snow-beds that are formed on the 
vast tablelands of these elevated regions. 

The snow-bed is generally called the neve, and is 
formed of layers of more or less crystalline snow, 
which diminish in thickness as their depth increases ; 
in other words, each layer is thinner than that 
immediately above it. At a certain depth these 
layers can scarcely be distinguished one from 
another, and still lower the substance of the neve 
passes into clear ice. The separate layers repre- 
sent each considerable fall of snow that has taken 
place, and their gradual consolidation arises from 
the percolation of water coming from above, and the 
pressure of fresh strata of snow which continually 
accumulate overhead. 


The deep valleys that radiate from the central 
mass of a great mountain are invariably filled with 
frozen water, and are the outlets of the frozen snow- 
fields, or in the words of a clever writer, " the 
glacier is a river of ice, and the neve its source." 
Glaciers sometimes fill up a valley twenty miles long 
by three or four broad to the depth of six hundred 
feet. Although apparently solid and stationary, 
they really move slowly down the valley, and carry 
with them, either on the surface, frozen into their 
mass, or grinding and rubbing along the bottom, 
all the fragments, large and small, from blocks 
many tons in weight, down to the finest sand and 
mud, that rain, and ice, and the friction of the 
moving glacier itself, detach from the adjacent 

The glaciers of the Alps, and probably those of 
other regions, descend to a vertical depth of nearly 
4000 feet below the line of perpetual snow, and into 
a climate much warmer than that of our own island, 
before they finally melt away, and leap forth as 
rivers of running water. The heap of materials 
of all sorts and sizes which they deposit at their 
melting extremity is called the moraine, a term 
which is also applied to the lines of blocks that are 
being carried along on the surface of the glacier, 
the floating sticks and straws of the solid river. 

Strange to say, the simple fact of the motion of 
glaciers was not admitted until a comparatively 
recent date, though it was well known that the 


lower end of a glacier, in spite of its rapid thawing, 
remained year after year at about the same point. 
Were we to attempt to describe the various obser- 
vations that have been made with a view to deter- 
mine the rate of glacial movement, we fear we 
should tax our reader's patience. Let us mention 
one or two illustrative facts. In the year 1827, M. 
Hugi built a very solid hut on the glacier of the 
lower Aar. In 1836 this hut was 4384 feet farther 
down the valley. Again, Professor Forbes gives an 
interesting account of a knapsack lost by a guide 
who fell into a crevass, one of those great chasms 
which are often observed in glaciers, which was 
recovered, ten years after, 4300 feet lower down. 
These facts, were there no others, would suffice to 
prove that the glaciers move onward at a slow but 
steady pace. 

The surface of the glacier is rough and crumbling, 
and the traveller can walk upon it without fear of 
slipping ; in some parts it is unbroken and undulat- 
ing, but in others it is rent by yawning fissures 
many hundred feet in depth, one set of fissures 
sometimes crossing another at right angles, and so 
cutting up the ice in fantastic pinnacles and towers, 
that occasionally topple over with a terrific crash. 
The noises that proceed from the glacier cannot be 
properly described, and we can only vaguely com- 
pare the mysterious rumblings, growls, and cracklings 
that salute the traveller's ear to "noises in a 
s wound." 


Various theories have been advanced to account 
for the motion of glaciers. Saussure, who was the 
first to observe these wonderful ice-rivers with any 
attention, asserted that they advance by sliding 
along their beds, which are constantly lubricated 
by the melting of the lower strata of ice. But this 
explanation is far from being satisfactory. Ice is 
undoubtedly a very slippery substance, but it is 
scarcely credible that a solid mass of ice some 
twenty miles in length should glide along by rea- 
son of its slipperiness. 

To move the Leviathan, our engineers had to 
make use of the most powerful machines ever con- 
structed before they could overcome the friction 
between the mighty ship and the surface upon 
which it rested. But the mass of the Leviathan is 
immeasurably small compared with that of the 
glacier ; indeed, the river of ice might siipport a 
number of such ships, and still move onward at its 
usual speed. Now, in spite of the lubricating fluid 
which Saussure imagined to exist between the 
glacier and its rocky bed, the friction must be im- 
mense, and we can scarcely reconcile the steady 
movement of the frozen mass with the operation of 
such a powerful retarding force. 

Again, it may be asked, how does the huge 
icicle adapt itself to the irregular form of the valley 
through which it travels ] A solid mass of ice, 
however large, might possibly slide along a per- 
fectly straight channel, but mere slipperiness would 


not enable it to pass through a tortuous valley. 
The diameter of the great basin of the Glacier de 
Talefre, on the range of Mont Blanc, is six times 
as great as the outlet through which the frozen 
stream eventually squeezes itself. Saussure's ex- 
planation throws no light upon this point, and it is 
quite plain that the philosopher had failed to hit 
upon the true theory of glacier motion. 

We will pass over the theory of M. Agassiz, which 
was founded on a radical error, and proceed to con- 
sider that advanced by Professor James Forbes of 
Edinburgh. In 1842, this celebrated geologist under- 
took an extensive series of observations ; from which 
dates the commencement of all sound and accurate 
knowledge respecting our moving lands. The laws 
of glacier motion were established by a few simple 
observations. He showed that the glacier moves 
onward with sxich regularity that it is almost possi- 
ble to tell the hour by the progress of a point placed 
on the surface; but that the motion is less rapid in 
summer than in winter, in damp than in dry weather, 
at night than during the day. The different parts 
of the same glacier do not advance at a uniform 
rate, and the centre invariably moves more rapidly 
than the sides. If a series of points be laid out in. 
a straight line across the glacier, they will be rapidly 
bent into the form of a regular curve, by the gra- 
dual decrease of velocity from the centre to the 
sides. Further observations in subsequent seasons 
proved that the upper part of the glacier moves 
faster than that near to the bottom. 


These observations established the strange and 
unexpected conclusion, that the ice of glaciers, 
though apparently hard and brittle, can be bent and 
moulded under the enormous pressure of its own 
weight, and that instead of moving like an ordinary 
solid, it flows down the valley just as a viscous sub- 
stance, such as partially melted pitch, would flow. 
Professor Forbes actually attributed this manner of 
motion to a slight degree of plasticity or a demi- 
semi-fluidity in the ice mass, and announced his 
new theory of glacier motion in these words : " A 
glacier is an imperfect fluid, or a viscous body, which 
is urged down slopes of a certain inclination by the 
mutual pressure of its parts." 

Our moving lands are thus robbed of their solidity, 
and become mere sluggish rivers of a marvellous 
sticky fluid, which we are unable to define with 
anything like accuracy, 

" For the ice it isn't water, and the water isn't free, 
And we cannot say that anything is as it ought to be." 

But are we quite sure that the viscous theory is the 
only possible explanation of glacier motion? It is 
quite certain " that the manner of movement of the 
surface of a glacier coincides with the manner of 
motion of a viscous or semi-fluid body," but we have 
many reasons for doubting the viscosity of glacier ice. 
The yawning crevasses, the fantastic towers, and the 
perpetual crackling noise of a glacier, would seem 
to prove that it is formed of a very brittle material. 
But a substance cannot be brittle and viscous at the 


same time, and we are quite at a loss to explain how 
it is that the motion of a mass of ice conforms to 
that of an imperfect fluid. 

Professor Tyndall has recently cleared up the 
mystery, and has shown that ice may be plastic 
without being viscous. Some time ago, Professor 
Faraday discovered that two pieces of ice when 
placed in contact, would freeze together, even under 
hot water, and that any number of fragments would 
unite into a solid mass, provided sufficient pressure 
were applied to bring their surfaces together. The 
plasticity of ice has since been established beyond 
all question by the beautiful experiments of the 
younger philosopher. Spheres of ice have been 
flattened into cakes, cakes have been formed into 
transparent lenses, a block of ice has been moulded 
into a crystal cup, and a straight bar six inches long 
has been bent into a semi-ring. Ice can be forced 
into a mould and made to take what shape we please, 
not because it is an imperfect fluid like plaster of 
Paris, but because it possesses the peculiar property 
of re-uniting by the contact of adjoining surfaces, 
after having been broken into fragments. In for- 
cing a cube of ice into a cup-shaped mould, we crush 
it to a powder, but the particles composing this 
powder immediately freeze together again into a 
solid and transparent cup. The plasticity of ice may 
therefore be explained as the effect of breakage and 
re-freezing, or in scientific language, fracture and 


This strange property of ice fully accounts for its 
obedience to the law of glacier motion discovered 
by Professor Forbes. "All the phenomena of 
motion," says Tyndall, " on which the idea of visco- 
sity has been based are brought by such experi- 
ments as the above into harmony with the demon- 
strable property of ice. In virtue of this property 
the glacier accommodates itself to its bed, while 
preserving its general continuity; crevasses are 
closed up ; and the broken ice of a cascade, such as 
that of the Talefre or the Rhone, is re-compacted 
into a solid continuous mass. 

" But if the glacier accomplishes its movements 
in virtue of the incessant fracture and regelation of 
its parts, such a process will be accompanied by a 
crackling noise, corresponding in intensity to the 
nature of the motion, and which would be absent if 
the motion were that of a viscous body. It is well 
known that such noises are heard, from the rudest 
crashing and quaking down to the lowest decrepita- 
tion, and they thus receive a satisfactory explana- 
tion." The reader will now be able to comprehend 
the wonderful phenomena presented by our moving 
lands; a glacier does not slide along its bed like a 
launching ship along her ways, nor does it flow, in 
virtue of any viscous quality, like thick mud or 
melted pitch ; but its motion is the result of the 
minute, almost molecular, fracture and regelation 
of the ice particles, which move as if they were 
sand, continually thawing and re-freezing. 


We have said that glaciers generally carry large 
fragments of rock, which they deposit in confused 
heaps at their lower extremities. It sometimes 
happens, however, that a glacier descends into a 
lake, or into the sea, before it melts, and large 
masses of it, or icebergs, are floated off with their 
freight of rock fragments. These loaded icebergs 
are sometimes carried great distances before they 
entirely dissolve, and in this manner large unworn 
angular blocks of rock may be dropped on the bed 
of the sea hundreds of miles from their original 

In many parts of Great Britain the geologist finds 
heaps of gravel and sand containing large fragments 
of rock which exactly resemble the terminal heaps 
or moraines of modern glaciers. He also finds 
huge blocks of rock or boulders resting upon the bare 
surface of rocks of quite a different character. One 
of the largest of the boulders is situated at the 
head of the Devil's Glen, in the county of Wicklow, 
its dimensions being twenty-seven feet long, by 
eighteen wide, and fifteen high. It consists of 
granite, and rests upon a bed of slate six or eight 
miles from the granite district, a wide shallow 
valley intervening. Another large boulder of 
granite has recently been discovered in the chalk 
near Croydon, and geologists have come to the con- 
clusion that this mass of rock must have wandered 
hither from the North of Europe. 

These curious heaps and boulders prove that 


" once upon a time " the glens of our present moun- 
tains were encumbered with glaciers, and that our 
low lands were entirely submerged. By the action 
of these glaciers the rocks were scored and rounded, 
polished and grooved, and masses of rock carried 
down and heaped into moraines; while great blocks 
were transported on fragments of those glaciers 
which dipped into the sea and formed icebergs, 
being often carried far over the shallow seas and 
dropped many miles from their parent sites, gene- 
rally on the banks and shallows (now the hill-tops) 
which arrested the laden icebergs in their course.* 

We have said that our moving lands advance 
with great regularity. Let the reader glance at 
the illustration which precedes this chapter, and he 
will find that our artist has represented this motion 
by the figure of Time using his scythe as an alpen- 
stock, and sliding along with the glacier upon which 
he stands. 

* Professor Jukes. 


"Day's dazzling light annoys, 
Night's darkness only joys, 
The cunning gnomes, who dwell 
Deep underneath earth's shell." 

From the German. 

REPAIR we to the home of the Gnomes to the 
stalactite cavern, where Fancy may revel and Ima- 
gination soar ! Where every hue of the rainbow, 
every sparkle of the gem, and every metal's sheen 
shall be reflected in the light of the torch we bear 
in our hands ! 

Before us, a perspective of brilliancy ; a crystal- 
line canopy overhead, which, in the torch flame, 
sparkles with a myriad diamond rays, and upon 
whose surface multitudes of sparry globules rival 
the charms of burnished gold. 

Beauty and grace displayed everywhere : in the 
architecture of the stalactite columns which support 
the roof; in the simulated forms of altars, trees, 
and stony organ-barrels which meet our gaze on 
every side ; and in the grouping of the transparent 
tubes which depend from the ceiling, now hanging 


singly like monster icicles, now clustering into ele- 
gant chandeliers, and now twirling in spiral and 
festoon, imitating the most elaborate Gothic tracery. 

Passing onward through antechambers and cor- 
ridors of seeming porphyry and jasper, our ears are 
saluted by the trickle and fall of large heavy drops 
of water, the only sounds to be heard in this vast 
and wonderful Gnome Palace. Now we reach a 
vaulted chamber, the roof of which is sustained by 
arches springing from pillars of every form and 
colour. The floor is inlaid with chequered slabs ; 
the walls are composed of broken and detached 
masses of rock, piled one upon another in pictu- 
resque irregularity ; -while high above us fantastic 
forms of stalactite are arranged with a grandeur 
beyond the workmanship of mortal. 

"We enter another apartment still more magni- 
ficent. Its walls are of purple marble, embellished 
with branching sprays of rock crystal, which, on 
the purple ground, assume the hue of the amethyst. 
The festoons of jewelled flowers, and the brilliant 
scroll-work of the ceiling ; the cascades of crystal 
suddenly arrested into rigidity, and the uneven 
pavement of gold and red, green and azure, under- 
neath our feet, combine to produce an effect of un- 
paralleled grandeur. Our eyes are dazzled by the 
scene, and our footsteps are arrested by a vague 
terror born of so much weird beauty, while our 
mind is enthralled by its presence. 

We are deep, deep down in the bowels of the 


earth, trespassers in the land of the creatures whom 
" light annoys." Shall we extinguish our torch, and 
so allow the thick darkness to fall upon us like a 
pall ? Shall we restore to these subterranean 
chambers their native gloom 1 And shall we in- 
voke, by such an act, the presence of those weird 
beings whom " darkness joys ?" 

The consequence of our deed would be, not an 
apparition of the gnomes, but the loss of the track by 
which we entered these gorgeous caverns now grim 
and gloomy. Our danger would thus be in the 
absence of living creatures, and not in their pre- 
sence. Science, which wars against ignorance on 
the earth above, has descended to these depths to 
strike the sceptre from the hand of the Gnome 
King, and to banish his subjects to the mysterious 
regions of No-man's-land, leaving only these jewelled 
caves to astonish and delight us. 

The old story-tellers, whose rich and active fancy 
peopled the air with sylphs, and the waters with 
nymphs, created the gnomes to be the guardians of 
the untold wealth of these subterranean realms. 
Queer little fellows were these underground people, 
and wonderful stories have been related of them. 
In the night, when mortals were fast asleep, they 
would sometimes ascend to the moon-lit surface of 
the earth, and dance about the hills till cock-crow. 
Some say that they had no music but howling and 
whimpering, and that the sounds which proceeded 
from their midnight assemblies were often mistaken 



for the cries of children and the mewing of cats. 
They were jet black and hideously ugly, having 
misshapen bodies, large heads, and great round eyes, 
always red as if from weeping ; nor was their ill- 
favoured appearance redeemed by a sweetness of 
disposition, as they were invariably crabbed and 
malicious. We are told that they were cunning 
workers in metals, and that the swords manufac- 
tured by them, were as flexible as rushes, and as 
hard as diamonds. The gnomes figured in our 
illustration must be the last of their race ; indeed, 
we are inclined to believe that those quaint dwarfs 
are merely creations of our artist's fancy. 

The reader, however, must not suppose that the 
description we have given of the Gnome Palace is 
the offspring of imagination. Such caverns do 
really exist beneath the surface of this planet, and 
their fantastic architecture is the result of the per- 
colation of water through limestone ; their pillars, 
arches, and stony icicles having been moulded 
out of the calcareous matter which the fluid dis- 
solved while infiltrating through the fissures and 
cavities of overlying beds of rock. 

The Grotto of Antiparos, in the Grecian Archi- 
pelago, is a gnome palace quite as wonderful as that 
we have just pictured. Countless stalactites depend- 
ing from above, together with an indescribable 
accumulation of crystallized masses on the walls, 
ornament a chamber with an arched roof upwards 
of one hundred and twenty feat in length. The 


floor of this cavern is paved with polished marble 
of a delicate green colour, and the columns which 
appear to support the roof seem to be formed of a 
deep burning-red porphyry. But this cavern is 
merely the entrance-hall of the subterranean palaces ; 
the principal apartment or throne-room is incom- 
parably more gorgeous. At a depth of fifteen hun- 
dred feet below the surface of the earth, the traveller 
finds himself in a grotto whose height is one hun- 
dred feet, while it extends to a length of three 
hundred and forty feet. Here the pillars are of 
yellow marble; petrifactions resembling snakes, 
trees, and shrubs abound; and in some places icicles 
of pure white glistening marble depend from the 
roof, to a length of ten feet. The tales told of this 
awe-inspiring gnome palace have assumed the tone 
of the wildest romance; and its diamond-spangled 
caves and walls of ruby have been described with 
all the vividness of over-wrought imagination. 
Nevertheless, all this wondrous architecture all 
these wild and fantastic forms, and every phe- 
nomenon attending the production of the roofs, 
sides, and floors of these caverns, can be accounted 
for, as we have said, by the percolation of water, clear 
as crystal, but charged with calcareous material. 

In these caverns we discover stalactites in every 
stage of growth, and are thus enabled to conceive 
how a single specimen is formed. A drop of water 
holding a quantity of limestone in solution hangs 
from the roof, and as the fluid evaporates the cal- 
s 2 


careous matter is left behind. In course of time a 
little conical button of spar is formed ; and as fresh, 
matter is constantly being deposited from the water 
which trickles over it, this button gradually assumes 
the form of a long stony icicle. Again, the water 
that falls upon the floor of the cavern, instead of 
hollowing out a cup-shaped cavity by its continued 
action during long ages, gradually builds up the 
accumulation termed the stalagmite, which, rising 
from the floor, eventually meets the descending 
stalactite, and thus helps to form a graceful column. 
When the lapidifying water oozes through a long 
joint or crevice in the roof, it forms a beautiful 
transparent curtain of spar; and when it percolates 
through the sides of the cave, it deposits its cal- 
careous particles in the form of a frozen cascade. 

All the sparry ornaments of these underground 
palaces were formerly held to be the handiwork of 
the gnomes ; and in the present day, those " vacant 
of our glorious gains" in knowledge, would doubt- 
less regard this opinion with more favour than that 
which ascribes the fantastic architecture of the 
caverns to the formative power of a myriad trickling 
drops of water. 

Out of Gnome-land, solid marble is deposited by 
exactly the same process, wherever water holding 
carbonate of lime in solution is brought into cir- 
cumstances favourable to rapid evaporation. Sticks 
and twigs hanging over brooks often become coated 
with calcareous matter; and the incrustation of 


birds' nests, medallions, moss, and even old wigs, 
by the action of the petrifying springs of Derby- 
shire, is known to every one who has visited that 
romantic and interesting county. 

In Italy large masses of solid and beautiful 
travertine* are deposited by some of the springs; 
and in the famous Lake of the Solfatara, the forma- 
tion of this stone is so rapid, that insects as well as 
the plants and shell-fish are frequently incrusted 
and destroyed. A considerable number of edifices 
in Italy, both ancient and modern, are constructed 
of stone thus formed. The Cyclopean walls and 
temples of Paestum, and the Colosseum at Rome, 
are built of huge blocks of travertine, which must 
have been deposited particle by particle, in lakes 
similar to that of the Solfatara. 

But the most remarkable instance of the rapid 
formation of marble occurs in Persia. The beau- 
tiful transparent stone called Tabreez marble is 
formed by deposition from the water of a celebrated 
spring which rises near Maragha. Here the process 
of petrifaction may be traced from its first beginning 
to its termination. In one part the water is per- 
fectly clear ; in another dark, muddy, and stagnant ; 
in a third it is quite black, and very thick; while 
in the last stage it is as white as snow. The petri- 
fied ponds look like frozen water; a stone thrown 
upon them breaks the crust, and a black fluid 

* The term travertine is derived from the Tiber, its literal 
signification being Tiber-stone. 


exudes through the opening; but when the process 
of petrifaction has reached a certain stage, a man 
may walk upon the surface without wetting his 
shoes. The stony mass is finely laminated, and a 
section of it resembles an accumulation of sheets of 
coarse paper. Such is the constant tendency of this 
water to solidify, that the very bubbles on its sur- 
face become hard, as if, by a stroke of magic, they 
had been arrested and metamorphosed into marble. 

Return we to our subterranean regions, promising 
that Ave will not ascend to the surface again unless 
such a course should appear absolutely necessary to 
the elucidation of our subject. In Gnome-land there 
are other wonders besides the capacious caverns, 
with their glancing roofs and walls and cluster- 
ing stalactite columns. The hidden treasures of 
the earth or, in more ordinary language, " the 
bowels of the earth" are only to be exceeded in 
their wondrous accumulation and occurrence by 
their vastness and value. The gnomes were for- 
merly held to be the legitimate guardians of these 
treasures; and for the sake of our fairy tale, we 
will suppose this view to be founded on facts. As 
mere story-tellers, we may create just as many 
giants, fairies, or gnomes as we please, even though 
we think fit to destroy them afterwards. Let us 
therefore people our stalactite cavern with elves 
like those to which our artist's fancy has given 

What a wonderful scene meets our mental vision ! 


The grotto is filled with active little beings, all 
busily employed in different operations connected 
with mining and metallurgy. On every side there 
are miniature forges, and the ceaseless clatter of 
innumerable tiny hammers is absolutely deafening. 
Each little smith wields his sledge with a super- 
human energy, and never seems to require rest. 
Some of the gnomes are digging holes in the marble 
floor, and others are carrying away the excavated 
material in little wheelbarrows, the like of which 
would make a toyman's fortune. In one part of 
the cave a crowd of miners are very hard at work 
with spade and pickaxe, while others near them are 
turning a windlass, by the action of which a little 
tram is drawn up from the floor of the cavern to 
the roof, and probably much higher, as it passes 
through a fissure and remains out of sight for some 
time. When it descends, it is either empty or 
freighted with gnomes who come to relieve their 
brethren at the windlass. Some of these under- 
ground people are chipping shapeless minerals into 
regular geometric crystals ; others are polishing 
fragments of spar; others are casting metals into 
beautiful arborescent forms. To describe all the 
various occupations of these elves would take up 
too much time, and we are therefore compelled to 
leave much to the reader's imagination. 

The poet tells us that " dazzling light annoys" 
the gnomes, but this statement is far from being 
true. The cavern is illuminated not by torches or 


candles, but by the crystals with which its walls 
and roof are studded. Each crystal is a lamp, every 
cluster a dazzling chandelier, and the scintillation 
of myriads of these natural lamps, produces an effect 
of indescribable brilliancy. 

But see, here comes an aristocratic gnome, arrayed 
in a tunic of asbestos, and wearing a cap formed of 
precious stones. He sits on a little stalagmite, and 
looks up at us with an impudent air, as though he 
thought us very inferior beings. This conceited 
little jackanapes has evidently something to say to 
us, so we will assume a becoming gravity, and 
endeavour to become attentive listeners. 

" I am the chief guardian of the jewels. To me 
is entrusted the care of the sparkling diamond, the 
flaming ruby, the cerulean sapphire, the green 
emerald, the yellow topaz, the purple-streaming 
amethyst, and all the precious stones which you 
mortals prize so highly." His small mightiness 
pauses for a moment, probably to give us time to 
form an adequate idea of his immense importance. 

" As yo\i have been permitted to enter our abode," 
he continues, " I will reveal to you a few secrets 
concerning the treasures I guard. You are doubt- 
less aware that the diamond is merely a bit of 
crystallized charcoal ; but I trust you do not think 
meanly of this princely gem on that account. Were 
you to estimate the value of things by their com- 
position, the finest marble and the coarsest chalk 
would be placed on an equality : or to choose an 


example from human nature, the wisest philosopher 
would be no better than the greatest dunce. The 
diamond is my most precious charge. It surpasses 
all other gems in hardness and lustre, and its beauty 
and rarity have rendered it peculiarly attractive to 
you men. My richest diamond beds are situated 
in the Brazils and in Bengal, but I have scattered 
these gems over many parts of the world. They 
may be found in alluvial deposits of sand and gravel, 
lying in detached octohedral ciystals, sometimes 
with plain, but rnoi'e frequently with rounded sur- 
faces. When perfectly pure a diamond is as trans- 
parent as a drop of the purest water, in which state 
it is known to you who live overhead as a diamond 
of the first water; and in proportion as it falls 
short of this perfection it is said to be of the second, 
third, or fourth water, till it becomes a coloured 
one. Coloured diamonds are brown, yellow, green, 
blue, or red, the deeper the colour the more valu- 
able they are, though still inferior to those abso- 
lutely colourless. Many of my largest diamonds 
have fallen into the hands of man. The famous 
Koh-i-noor, or Mountain of Light, was removed 
from the mines of Golconda more than three hun- 
dred years ago ; but, though it was thus taken out 
of my keeping, I never lost sight of it, and I was 
exti'emely pleased to see it pass into the possession 
of the Queen of England. 

" A slight sketch of the history of this remark- 
able jewel may, perhaps, be interesting to you. It 


was first brought to light by the miners of Gol- 
conda, in the year 1550, and became the property 
of the reigning prince. When the Mogul princes 
extended their pretensions to the sovereignty of the 
Deccan, the Koh-i-noor passed from Golconda to 
Delhi, where it was seen in 1665 by the French 
traveller, Tavernier, who, by the extraordinary 
indulgence of Aurungzebe, was permitted to handle, 
examine, and weigh it. In the year 1739, Nadir 
Shah, the Persian invader, seized the precious jewel 
and carried it back with him ; but it was destined 
to pass from Persia as quickly as that ephemeral 
supremacy in virtue of which it had been acquired. 
Soon after his return the Persian conqueror was 
assassinated by his own subjects, and the great 
diamond was carried off by Ahmed Shah. 

" At the commencement of the present century, 
the treasures of Ahmed were vested in Zemaun 
Shah, who was deposed and imprisoned by his bro- 
ther, Shah Shuja. For some time the Koh-i-noor 
was missing, but at length it was discovered inge- 
niously secreted in the walls of Zemaun Shah's 
prison. When Shah Shuja was expelled from Cabul 
by the British, he contrived to make this far-famed 
diamond the companion of his flight. He found 
refuge at the court of Runjeet Singh, who demanded 
the jewel in return for his protection, and thus the 
great diamond of the Moguls became the property 
of the warlike chief of the Sikhs. You must be 
aware that the Koh-i-noor formed part of the spoil 


taken by the English in the Sikh war ; that it 
was one of the chief attractions of your Great Ex- 
hibition in 1851 ; and that it has since been recut 
and placed among the jewels of your queen. 

" Such is the history of that marvellous gem which, 
in point of size, is still without a rival, though cut- 
ting has reduced it to little more than one-third of its 
original weight.* You would probably like to know 
something about the previous history of this stone. 
I could tell you how it was originally formed, and 
how it came to be deposited with the gravel and 
sand of Golconda, but I have my own reasons for 
keeping these matters secret. Science will one day 
enable you to solve many problems connected with 
the formation of gems, and will perhaps teach you 
how to manufacture Koh-i-noors from coal or char- 
coal. Till then I shall keep my own counsel. 

" Many of the jewels under my care are com- 
posed of alumina, and bear the same relation to 
clay, that the diamond bears to coal. Of these 
aluminous gems the rubies are the most valuable on 
account of their extreme rarity, their matchless 
hues, and the brilliant stars of light which they 
exhibit when viewed in certain directions. The 
sapphire, another of my precious charges, is merely 
a blue variety of the same substance as that which, 
when red, is called ruby. 

" Flint, or silica, forms the base of innumerable 

* In its rough state the Koh-i-noor is said to have weighed 
nearly 800 carats a carat being 3& troy grains. 


mineral treasures. Quartz is formed of pure silica, 
and is often found crystallized in beautiful six-sided 
prisms, ending in six-sided pyramids. When co- 
loured by slight admixtures of other substances, 
such as iron and manganese, quartz goes under 
various names, according to the variety and arrange- 
ment of colours, crystalline form, and state of trans- 
parency. When purple, it is called amethyst, and 
is highly prized by you mortals ; smoky quartz is 
called cairngorm; when blue, it is known as side- 
rite ; and when yellow, as Scotch or Bohemian topaz. 
Agate, jasper, carnelian, onyx, chalcedony and opal, 
are merely varieties of the same abundant substance. 
The emerald, again, one of the most esteemed gems, 
is nothing but transparent flint, coloured green by 
oxide of chromium. 

" My time is precious, and although I have given 
you but an imperfect idea of the mineral treasures 
that I have to guard, I must now leave you, as my 
presence is required at the diamond mines of Brazil. 
The inferior gnomes under my control are conti- 
nually engaged in building up new minerals, in fill- 
ing empty veins with spar, in polishing crystals, 
and in performing a thousand mysterious processes 
of a chemical or electrical nature. It is no easy 
task, I can assure you, to superintend these count- 
less operations, and I need scarcely tell you that my 
time is fully occupied so, farewell !" The gnome 
takes off his jewelled cap, makes a low bow, and 


But liei'e comes another little fellow, in far more 
splendid habiliments than those of the guardian of 
the gems. He wears a complete suit of armour, 
every plate of which is formed of a different metal. 
His helmet is of gold, and surmounted by a grace- 
ful plume, formed entirely of the finest conceivable 
silver wire. Everything about him is metallic, and 
so highly polished, that our eyes are fairly dazzled 
by the apparition. As he walks towards us, his 
armour makes a pleasant jingling noise ; and as he 
sits down on the stalagmite vacated by his brother 
gnome, we hear such a crash, that we half expect to 
see the elaborate suit of metal tumble into pieces. 

" I come to speak to you of the real treasures of 
the earth, and not of those useless bodies misnamed 
precious stones. I am the keeper of the metals, 
those wonderful substances which have been such 
important aids to human progress, and without 
which,, indeed, any high degree of civilization were 
impossible. Unlike the jewels guarded by the boast- 
ful gnome who vanished as I approached, the metals 
are not merely ornamental, for you must be aware 
that they are essential to every process connected 
with the tilling of the soil, the building of houses 
and temples, the construction of roads, the manufac- 
ture of clothing, the navigation of seas to every 
art, in fine, which elevates man above the condition 
of the brute. 

"I will not attempt to describe the properties 
of the various metals confided to my care, nor will 


I speak of the uses to which, they are applied by 
man, for surely you ought to know more about 
human works than a gnome. I shall merely allude 
to the states in which the metals occur in these sub- 
terranean regions, for you must know that they are 
seldom to be met with in a state of purity." The 
little man of metal now takes off his helmet, and, 
drawing his tiny legs under him into a comfortable 
position, speaks as follows : 

" The metals nearly always occur in the crude 
state of ores. These ores are sulphides, oxides, and 
carbonates mingled with earthy impurities, generally 
situated in fissures or rents in the rocks, which are 
called veins or lodes. I may as well inform you at 
once, that these fissures are produced by the uphea- 
val and depression of the rocks which they tra- 
verse. The internal fires of this wonderful planet 
sometimes exert a force sufficient to raise vast 
masses of rock, of unknown but immense thickness, 
from the bottom of the sea high into the air, in 
order to form dry land ; you may easily imagine, 
therefore, that this force is also sufficient to crack 
and rend the earth's crust in every direction, and 
thus form the veins in which the metallic ores are 

" The respective metals do not always lie in sepa- 
rate veins, for though one metal generally predomi- 
nates, three, four, or even more metals may be 
strangely combined and 'intermixed in the same 
veinstone ; thus, the vein which contains lead as 


the principal metal, frequently contains small quan- 
tities of silver, zinc, and cobalt ; manganese is often 
associated with iron, while platinum is usually 
mixed with gold. Besides the ores of metals, these 
veins almost always contain quartz, fluorspar, crys- 
talline carbonate of lime, and other spars. 

" Ores and spars, however, are not confined to 
the deep fissures that occur in the earth's crust. 
They find their way into all kinds of cracks and 
cavities, whatever may have been the cause of the 
hollows, and even into detached holes, often no 
larger than your fist, and completely surrounded by 
solid rock. Wherever, indeed, permanent hollows 
and interstices of any kind, size, shape, or origin 
exist in hard rocks, crystallized minerals, spars, and 
ores may be formed in them. 

" How do these matters reach the cavities, is a 
problem which you will perhaps expect me to solve, 
but if- so you will be disappointed. A number of 
clever mortals are striving to arrive at the true 
sohition of this mysterious question, and were I to 
tell you all I know, I should be robbing some future 
philosopher of the fame that will accrue from a 
great discovery. I will, however, give you one or 
two hints, which may help you to form some con- 
ception of the mode in which the veins and isolated 
cavities may be filled. 

"Look around at these walls of crystal, these 
pillars of porphyry, this floor of marble, and these 
hanging stalactites ! All these things have been 


foi-med since this cavern was hollowed out by the 
disturbing forces of nature. How did they find 
their way hither, yo\i will perhaps ask. They 
came by water, not in large masses, but particle by 
particle, dissolved in the minute drops of fluid 
which percolated through the rocks overhead. May 
not the minerals have been introduced into the 
rock-cavities by water also ? May not each de- 
tached and isolated nest of minerals be a miniature 
stalactite cavern 1 

"If the mineral contents of veins have not been 
deposited from aqueous solutions, they may have been 
introduced by sublimation. Many of the metals 
can be converted into vapour by intense heat ; and 
provided it be possible for mineral vapours to gain 
access to fissures in rocks, it is not impossible for 
some of them to be condensed and deposited on the 
sides of the lodes. 

" Gold ranks first among the metals, though its 
rarity renders it of less importance to man than 
some of the less perfect ones. This kingly metal 
occurs in almost every quarter of the globe, and is 
obtained by the miner either in the metallic or 
native state, from alluvial sands and gravels, or from 
veins in combination with silver, and often mixed 
with sulphides of other metals. In its native state it 
occurs in small crystals, in threads, or granular 
fragments, and in curiously shaped nuggets. 

" Silver is a still more widely disseminated pro- 
duct of nature, occurring in veins in granitic moun- 


tains, and in the most ancient sedimentary rocks. 
It is sometimes found in a native state, though less 
frequently than gold. 

" Iron is far more valuable than either of the so- 
called precious metals, and its ores are scattered 
over the crust of the globe with a beneficent profu- 
sion proportionate to the utility of the metal. One 
of your best authors has well remarked, that he who 
first made known the use of iron may be truly 
styled the father of arts and author of plenty. 

"What miserable creatures you mortals would 
be without this marvellous substance ! Banish the 
ploughshare, the anchor, and the needle from the 
world, and there would be an end to agriculture, to 
navigation, and to the fashioning of clothes. You 
would be reduced to the state of barbarism, and in 
your naked and forlorn condition your time would 
be fully occupied in seeking your scanty meal of 
acorns, and in paddling about in your rude canoe, 
intent upon spearing a stray fish with your wooden 
lance. You would cease to be interested in ' The 
Fairy Tales of Science,' and 'the long result of 
time' could have no possible attraction for a hungry 
savage like you. 

" Copper, lead, and tin, are also estimable trea- 
sures ; indeed, there is not a single metal which 
has not contributed, or at any rate may not con- 
tribute, to man's comfort and happiness. Look upon 
me as the friend of the human race, for it is I who 
superintend the filling of the veins with ores, and 


all the metallurgical operations of nature's labo- 
ratory. But here is another gnome who, despite 
his ugliness, has quite as great a claim to your re- 
spect as I have. I leave you with him." So saying, 
the armour-clad spirit vanishes in a most myste- 
rious manner, before we can shape our grateful 
thoughts into words. 

The gnome who now seats himself on the sparry 
throne is a sombre-looking little imp, with some- 
thing so repulsive, and at the same time something 
so ludicrous, in his whole appearance, that we are 
undecided whether we ought to run away or burst 
out laughing. His ugly face wears a very comical 
expression, and is as black as je't. His crooked 
body is clothed in a suit of shining black ; his legs 
are black, his feet are black ; in fine, he is black all 
over. But what renders this strange being so ter- 
rible, is a circle of flames which surrounds his head 
and forms a sort of fiery crown. 

" I am the gnome of the coal-measures," says the 
little blackamoor ; " those wondrous accumulations 
of ancient vegetable matter that abound in these 
subterranean realms. I need not tell you that 
coal is one of the greatest treasures hidden in the 
bowels of the earth. By it man heats his apart- 
ments, cooks his food, fuses the metals, and produces 
steam, which sets all kinds of machinery in motion. 
With it he feeds his iron horses, which drag him 
from place to place with the velocity of the wind ; 
and with it he raises an agent that propels his ships 
along the pathless deep against wind and tide. 


" You are familiar with the general aspect and 
nature of coal, and are doubtless aware that it is 
almost wholly composed of the element, carbon. 
Were I to describe the immense varieties of coal 
that occur in nature, you would not thank me for 
my trouble, and would probably fall asleep long 
before I reached the end of my list. These diffe- 
rent varieties of coal may, howevei*, be grouped 
under three heads : anthracite, ordinary or pit coal, 
and brown coal or lignite. 

" Anthracite is a natural coke or charcoal, and 
may be regarded as the most completely mineralized 
form of coal. If you handle a piece of this sub- 
stance, you will find that it does not soil the fingers 
like ordinary coal, that it is much heavier, and that 
it has a glistening and serai-metallic aspect. It is 
not easily ignited, but when burning gives out a 
fierce heat, and neither flames nor smokes. 

" Ordinary coal has many varieties, which, how- 
ever, may be classified into four kinds. The first 
kind is called caking-coal, from its fusing or running 
together on the fire, so as to form clinkers. Splint 
or hard coal comes next, which is not easily broken, 
nor is it easily kindled, though it affords a clear 
and lasting fire when once ignited. Cherry or soft 
coal, is an abundant and beautiful kind, and highly 
prized by mortals. It does not cake when heated, 
it can be broken with ease, and it readily catches 
fire, requiring but little stirring, and giving out a 
cheerful flame and heat. Another kind is called 
T 2 


cannel coal. Ib is always compact, and does not 
soil the fingers. It varies much in appearance, from 
a dull earthy to a lustrous wax-like substance. The 
bright shining varieties often burn away like wood, 
leaving scarcely any cinders and only a little white 
ash, while the duller kinds leave white masses of 
ash, almost equal in size and shape to the original 
lumps of coal. Jet, of which you make necklaces and 
bracelets, is merely an extreme variety of cannel coal. 

" Brown coal, or lignite, is a substance of compa- 
ratively recent formation, and it sometimes exhibits 
the structure of the plants from which it is derived, 
the trunks and branches being plainly perceptible. 
This brown coal is only had recourse to where there 
are no older beds beneath, or where they are too far 
down to be reached by the miner. 

" Although you mortals are constantly consuming 
vast quantities of coal in your stoves, fire-places, 
and engine-furnaces, I give you my word that there 
is quite enough in the earth's crust to supply all 
your wants for thousands of years to come. Many 
of the great coal-fields are as yet untouched, for 
until the wood of a new country is used, and civi- 
lization has made some progress, man never dreams 
of looking for his fuel in Gnome-land." 

Where have we been? To Gnome-land, or to 
dream-land 1 ? The cavern and all its weird inhabi- 
tants have vanished. We are sitting at our desk, 
with a text-book of mineralogy open before us, the 
source from which our fairy tale proceeded. 


Down to the inmost core of this our mother Earth, 
To the sad realm of shades, where Pluto sits enthroned, 
In gloomy majesty, grim King of Death ; 
And Phlegethontic rills roll waves of lurid fire 
There will I lead, an thou wilt follow me. " 


THEY were brethren three, sons of Old Time, who 
shared among them the dominion of the world. 
Jupiter, the eldest of them, assumed the supreme 
rule of heaven and earth; to Neptune was given 
the empire of the sea ; Pluto had assigned to his 
sway the interior of the earth the realm of death. 

The name of Pluto is taken from a Greek word 
signifying wealth, and was therefore most appro- 
priately given to the master of all the hidden trea- 
sures of the earth. The Latins called the king of 
the infernum, Dis i.e., Dives, the wealthy. 

The gate to the dominions of Pluto was guarded 
by the many-headed dog Cerberus* To get there 

* Three heads only and three necks are generally given to 
this marvellous beast ; Hesiod, however, the second father of 
most of those creatures of the imagination, yclept the gods of 
Greece, gives Cerberus fifty heads ; whilst Horace, more 
bountiful still, supplies him with a hundred of these useful 


you had to pass the famous River Styx, or the sad 
river. Over this you were ferried by Charon, the 
son of Hell and Night, for the small consideration 
of an obolus* which the ancients, for this reason, 
used to put in the mouths of the dead. But woe unto 
those shadows whose bodies had had no burial : for 
a hundred years had they to wander by the side of 
the river, before they could hope to induce the grim 
ferryman to carry them over. And grim he was, 
this ferryman, and far from prepossessing, if the 
portrait drawn of him by Virgil may be considered 
a correct likeness : a frightfully ugly old man, 
with glaring eyes and a bushy, matted beard ; a 
dirty, dark-coloured mantle, fastened with a knot, 
hanging down from his left shoulder. The River 
Styx, or the Stygian Lake, as it was also called, 
encircled hell in a sevenfold embrace. There dwelt 
a marvellous power in the name, to which even the 
highest divinities were subject. If any of the gods 
swore falsely by it, a hundred years' exile from 
heaven, with loss for that time of all the rights, 
privileges, and other appurtenances belonging to 
divinity, punished the perjurer. Four other rivers, 
besides Styx, flowed through the sad realms of 
Death the Acheron, the Cocytus, the Phlegeton, 
and the Lethe. The Phlegeton was a lake of liquid 
fire ; whoever drank of the waters of Lethe forgot 
all that was past. According to the doctrine of the 

* An Athenian coin, worth about five farthings of our 


transmigration of souls taught by Pythagoras* in 
the sixth century B.C., the souls of the departed 
were made to drink the waters of Lethe, when 
quitting the infernal regions to return to the surface 
of the earth to animate new bodies there. 

Pluto, the supreme lord and ruler over this 
subterranean realm, sat here enthroned in gloomy 
majesty, on a seat of ebony, a crown of the same 
wood encircling his " portentous brow," and a two- 
pronged sceptre in his right hand. On voyages of 
inspection through his dominions, he rode in a 
chariot of dark hue, drawn by four jet-black steeds. 
No temples nor altars were ever raised to him by 
man j no hymns ever chanted in his praise ; and 
strange enough, from some tacit understanding 
among the learned of all nations, evidently dictated 
by some universal mysterious intuitive sense of the 
" fitness of things," the starry heavens are, even to 
the present day, left without a representative of his 
name. Yet was he acknowledged to be a powerful 
god, and trembling man would not dare to with- 
hold from him the propitiatory sacrifice : the blood 

* Pythagoras travelled through Egypt, Central Asia, and 
Hindostan in search of knowledge. On his return he opened 
a school of philosophy in Lower Italy, about the time of 
Servius Tullius or of Tarquinius Superbus. He believed in 
the transmigration of souls, and affirmed that he could dis- 
tinctly remember several previous existences of his own. His 
scholars yielded him the most implicit faith, and thought it 
sufficient to reply to a controverting argument, ' ' himself 
has said it." 


of black rams, spilt in a pit, was the peace-offering 
presented to him. 

Pluto's lord high- treasurer and secretary of state 
for the financial department was Plulus, the God of 
Wealth, son of Jasius and Ceres. We find that the 
ancient Greeks imputed to this god blindness and 
folly, which in fact would appear to have been the 
chief qualifications that recommended him for his 
high office. He was depicted lame in his approach, 
winged in his departure. Among the other high 
officers of state in Pluto's court, figured more espe- 
cially the three fatal sisters Clotho, who held the 
spindle, and drew the thread of man's life ; LacJiesis, 
who spun it; and Atropos, who cut it asunder with 
her relentless scissors; the three infernal judges 
Minos, the lord chief-justice of hell, the son of 
Jupiter and Europa, whilom king and lawgiver of 
the Cretans; and his two assistant-judges, ^Eacus, 
the son of Jupiter and ^Egina ;* and RJiadamanthus, 
also a Cretan lawgiver. These three presided over 
the great interminable commission of oyer and 
terminer, and everlasting universal jail-delivery, 
held in the infernum. Before their dread tribunal 
had to appear all the shades of the departed ; no 

* The bestowal of the highest arid most important "offices 
of state" upon the sons and nearest relatives of the chief 
gods, affords a curious illustration of how thoroughly the 
ancients had moulded their gods upon the model of human 
nature, and made them in their own image. Thus we find 
two out of three judgeships of hell given to sons of Jupiter 
tout comme chez nous. 


appeal from their decrees! Instant execution at- 
tended their sentences. The officials upon whom 
devolved the execution of the judgments given by 
this model Star-chamber, were presided over by 
three most unamiable females, holding lighted 
torches in their hands, and with a fanciful arrange- 
ment of snakes dangling round their heads, in lieu 
of hair Alecto, the never resting ; Megcera, the 
type of envy ; Tisiphone, the avenger of blood. 

The empire of the dead was divided into two 
parts Tartarus, or hell proper, and Elysium, or 
the Elysean fields. 

Tartarus was the place of punishment assigned to 
the criminals condemned by the dark tribunal. 
Here might be seen the Titans and the Giants who 
had dared to " war 'gainst heaven's king ;" here Sal- 
moneus of Elis, who had impiously attempted to 
imitate Jupiter's thunder by rattling his torch- 
lighted chariot over a bridge of brass ; here the 
robber Sisyphus, condemned to the eternal fruitless 
labour of rolling an immense stone to the top of a 
high mountain, which it has hardly reached when 
it rolls down again ; here Tityus, the giant offspring 
of Earth, who had been so ill-advised as to compete 
with Jupiter for the possession of Latona, but was 
straightways cast down into hell by the indignant 
god. Here he covered nine acres of land, as he lay 
stretched on the ground, with vultures on both sides 
devouring his entrails, which kept on growing afresh 
as fast as they were eaten away ; here lasion, tied 
with serpents to an eternally turning wheel, for 



having dared to aspire to the favours of Juno; here 
Tantalus, condemned eternally to stand in water to 
the chin, and with an abundance of pleasant fruit 
just at his lips, without the power of even once 
satisfying his hunger or quenching his thirst a 
feai'ful punishment indeed, yet well deserved, for 
that he, to test the divinity of the gods, had killed 
his own son Pelops, and set the limbs before them, 
baked in a pie ; here the forty-nine daughters of 
Danaus, who, obedient to their father's behest, had 
slain their husbands on the wedding night. Hy- 
permnestra alone, of the fifty daughters of the king, 
had spared her husband Lynceus, and she alone was 
therefore exempt from the punishment decreed to 
her sisters, who were condemned to eternally and 
incessantly pour water into a tub full of holes. 

Elysium, on the other hand, the placid abode of 
peace and contentment, was assigned for the habi- 
tation of the souls of good and virtuous men, the 
doers of heroic deeds, and those who had rendered 
important services to humanity. Here the spirits 
of the blessed wandered in serene happiness, under 
a sunny and star-spangled sky, in a pure atmosphere, 
over ever-blooming fields, and through ever-green 
laurel groves, continuing those pursuits and occu- 
pations in which they had delighted most in their 
terrestrial career.* 

* Swedenborg, the great Scandinavian dreamer and seer, 
in his account of the " other world," tells a similar tale re- 
specting the pursuits and occupations of the spirits of the 


Now, however so nice this pleasant little retreat, 
and " fit for a goddess," it would appear that none 
of these ladies could be persuaded by Pluto to share 
his throne. Finding the honour of his alliance 
everywhere " declined, with thanks," he took at last 
the desperate step of carrying off to his subterranean 
realm Proserpine, the daughter of his brother Jupi- 
ter, and his sister Ceres. The bereaved mother 
lighted torches on Mount jEtna, and incessantly, 
both by day and night, sought for her daughter all 
over the world, but in vain. Informed at last of 
the whereabout of her daughter by the nymph 
Arethusa, she descended to the infernum to claim 
the restitution of her child, as she decidedly ob- 
jected to brimstone matches. But Proserpine, won 
over, most likely, to Pluto by the splendour of his 
throne, showed no great eagerness to comply with 
mamma's peremptory request to instantly "come 
out of that ;" and poor Ceres was obliged, as a last 
resource, to appeal to the justice and power of 
Jupiter. He decreed that Proserpine should return 
to heaven, provided she had tasted nothing in hell ; 
but, unfortunately, one of those busybodies who 
are always poking their noses into other people's 
affairs, one Ascalaphus, son of Acheron and Orphne, 
stood forward as witness on Pluto's behalf, deposing 
that he had seen the lady eating seven pomegranate 
seeds, as she walked in Pluto's orchard. Where- 
upon, all hope of a return being gone, the angry 
mother touched the luckless Ascalaphus with her 
magic wand, and enriched the tribe of owls by a 


new species. It would, however, appear that 
Jupiter, afterwards yielding to the deep grief and 
the incessant lamentations of his sister, granted 
that her daughter should only live six months in 
the year with her husband below, and the other six 
months with the gods above. 

Such as we have here endeavoured to sketch it 
in a few rapid outlines, was the kingdom of Pluto 
in the ideal conception of the ancient Greeks, that 
nation of poets. To us, alack and alas for the 
poetry of the thing to us, the sons of a hard, stern, 
matter-of-fact age, a very different image presents 
itself. We still make use of the name, indeed, but the 
god, with all that pertained unto him, has departed 
for ever and ever more. Our " Pluto's Kingdom " 
is the mass of liquid fire that constitutes the inner 
kernel of the earth. To us, he is the Great Fire- 
King, and he and his realm are one. 

It is now an almost universally received notion, 
by astronomers as well as by geologists, that this 
globe of ours, as indeed all other planetary bodies, 
once existed in a gaseous form, and was subsequently, 
by chemical combination of the gases constituting 
it, and consequent evolution of heat, gradually con- 
densed into a glowing, fusing mass, which being 
whirled round in space, ultimately assumed, under 
the conjoint action of gravity and the rotatory pro- 
jecting impulse inherent in it, its present state and 
orange-shaped form, the surface or "crust" gradually 
cooling and hardening in process of time. 


If you wish to form some intelligible conception 
of the state and condition of the earth, you need 
simply go to a foundry, and watch the cooling of a 
cannon-ball heated to redness ; as it cools you see 
the surface becoming gradually covered with pelli- 
cles, or flakes of oxide of iron, whilst a touch will 
speedily convince you that the heat beneath the 
surface continues still unabated ; and it is only after 
a certain time, when the process of cooling has ex- 
tended to the inner part, that you may take up the 
ball without burning your fingers. Now proceed a 
little further ; take up a mass of cinder, or scoria, 
that has cooled, and break it to pieces you will 
find that the inside shows streaks and veins of dif- 
ferent materials, and presents many cavities or holes, 
called by foundrymen " honeycomb." Reflect now 
that these cavities were formed in the cinder while 
yet in the red-hot state, either by air or by gases. 
Think that at the bottom of these cavities there 
once was floating a small drop of melted matter. 
Now bring your imagination into play, and let that 
cinder represent the earth; the cavities subterra- 
nean caverns of many hundred square miles, and 
the melted drop an immense lake of liquid fire, 
burning, boiling, heaving to the top, enlarging the 
cavern, melting away parts of the crust nearest to 
it, or swelling it up until it cracks, and forms cre- 
vices and fissures for the escape of smoke, flames, 
and fused matter. Here you have, also, at once, an 
intelligible theory of earthquakes and volcanic erup- 


It has been demonstrated by numerous observa- 
tions made in mines, and by Artesian wells in various 
countries, that the temperature of the earth rapidly 
increases with the depth, but that the rate of aug- 
mentation is different at different places in the 
Northumberland coal-pits, for instance, one degree 
Fahrenheit for every 44 feet in descent ; in the lead- 
mines of Saxony, one degree for every 65 feet ; in 
the copper -mines of Knockmahon, county of Water- 
ford, one degree for every 82 feet; in the Dolcoath 
mine, in Cornwall, one degree for every 78 feet. 
Assuming the average increase of temperature to be 
one degree of Fahrenheit for every 60 feet of depth, 
and the rate of increase to remain constant, at a 
depth of 60,000 feet below the surface of the earth 
the temperature must stand at 1000 degrees Fah- 
renheit, which is that of low red-heat. But as the 
temperature will increase with the depth in an aug- 
menting ratio, Leonhard assumes that the tempera- 
ture of a low red-heat would be attained already at 
a depth of 35,000 feet, or double the height of 
Cotopaxi, the most remarkable of the Peruvian 
volcanoes. Descending still lower, to depths vary- 
ing from 80 to 160 miles below the surface, the 
temperature would be found at that depth to exceed 
12,000 degrees Fahrenheit a heat sufficient to 
melt most of the known rocks. But considering 
that the dense fluid portions of the earth are most 
probably much better conductors of heat than the 
crust, it may safely be assumed that this high 


temperature is acquired at a still less depth. Were 
we to proceed down to the very centre of the earth, 
we should there find, supposing a regular rate of 
progression in the increase of temperature, a heat 
exceeding 3500 degrees of Wedgewood's pyrometer, 
or something like 450,000 degrees Fahrenheit! 
The solid crust of the earth is generally supposed 
to be only from 60 to 100 miles thick; and it is 
probably even much less ; that the thickness is very 
unequal is shown by the variation of temperature, 
which cannot be attributed solely to different 
degrees of conductibility in different parts. The 
process of cooling from the crust downwards is, of 
course, still going on, but, as has been demonstrated 
by Fourier, at a less rate than was formerly the 
case. According to the same authority, it will 
require 30,000 years to reduce the increase of tem- 
perature on descending into the interior of the earth 
from its present rate of one degree Fahrenheit for 
every 60 feet in descent, to one-half degree. Some geo- 
logical chemists have calculated from the known laws 
of radiation of heat, that it would take 200,000,000 
years to cool the earth to its centre ! 

Another point to consider is the density of the 
earth. The density of the crust lies between 2'7 
and 2'9 ; but we know, from most careful and accu- 
rate pendulum experiments, that the average density 
of the bulk of the earth is about 5 - 5. It is quite 
evident, therefore, that the ponderable matter of 
the interior must be very much denser than that of 


the crust. The generally received notion is that, 
assuming the radius of the earth to measure 4000 
miles in round numbers, and dividing it into ten 
equal parts of 400 miles each, the density of the 
materials severally constitutiDg the ten divisions 
increases in an arithmetical progression by about 
1 '5 for each part, which, taking the density of the 
first annular space of 400 miles at 2 '7, gives for the 
second 4 '2, for the third 5 '7, and so on, the density 
of the central portion being about 16 '2. 

In Cordiers purely thermometrical theory as to 
the nature and mode of action of the great ele- 
vating force that has at successive periods raised 
and broken the earth's crust, lifting up various 
igneous or plutonic rocks, and forcing them into 
the cracks and fissures, the central nucleus of 
the earth is considered in the light of an immense 
sea of molten mineral matter. As the solid crust 
continues to contract as its temperature decreases 
in a greater ratio than the central mass, and the 
velocity of rotation increases as the diameter of the 
globe shortens, a tendency will necessarily be in- 
duced to additional divergence from the spherical 
form, and the fluid matter within will accordingly 
press against the contracting crust, and thus pro- 
duce volcanic eruptions. 

M. Cordier has calculated that a contraction of 
T^lrBir f an i ncn i n * ne mean radius of the earth 
would be sufficient to force out the matter of a 
volcanic eruption. And a most wise arrangement 


of the Supreme Intelligence it is, which has left 
open to King Pluto these ready means of forcing 
an. outlet ; and man ought to feel rather thankful 
when he beholds the flaming head of the Fire King 
towering above the crater of some volcano. Earth- 
quakes surely are much more terrible and destruc- 
tive than volcanic eruptions. 

A volcano may be defined as a perpendicular 
tunnel in the earth's crust, through which heated 
matter from below is thrown up to the surface. The 
matter thrown up may be in the form of lava, scoriae, 
ashes, mud, &c. The tunnel or fissure is generally 
called the chimney, vent, or chasm of the volcano. 
The upper part of the chimney is called the crater ; 
it always presents the form of an inverted cone, or 
the shape of a funnel with the broad part upward. 
A distinction is made between so-called craters of 
eruption and craters of elevation. 

Craters of eruption are formed by the boiling 
streams of lava, the floods of hot mud, or tuf, and 
the showers of ashes and cinders gathering or falling 
around the mouth of the vent or chimney of a 
volcano. In proportion to the continuance of the 
eruption, and its repetition, successive beds of vol- 
canic products will accumulate round the mouth, 
and form themselves into the shape of a sugar-loaf 
or cone. 

Craters of elevation, on the other hand, are formed 
by the matter of the volcanic eruption lifting the 
horizontal strata in which the crater is formed, until 


the beds snap, and rest in highly inclined planes 
about the mouth of the fissure. 

It occurs also occasionally that both kinds of 
craters are found in one mountain. 

The lava in a crater may be burning and boiling 
for years, without either an eruption of scoriae or 
an overflow of lava taking place ; a multitude of 
small conical vents are formed, however, in such 
cases, which rise out of the cooled surface of the 
melted lava, and incessantly emit volumes of smoke 
and sulphurous vapour. A vent of this kind is 
called in Europe a Fumerole or Mqffet, and in Mexico 
a Hornito, or small oven. Other vents also are pro- 
duced occasionally on the walls of the crater, or on 
the sides of the mountain, by the jets of scoriae 
thrown up accumulating in falling round the mouth 
of the vent. 

The number of volcanoes is very great, more than 
300 of them being known to exist in the world at 
the present time, of which 24 are in Europe, 11 in 
Africa, 46 in Asia, 114 in America, and 108 in 
Oceania. Most of the islands of the Pacific, and 
many isles of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, are 
also volcanic, or else composed of volcanic rocks. 

The most ancient volcanoes known are Mount 
Vesuvius in Italy, Mount JEtna in Sicily, and 
Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands, near Sicily. 
Stromboli is always burning, which has gained it 
the name of " the great lighthouse of the Medi- 


Mount Vesuvius gave its first notice of action in 
A.D. 73, when it did much injury to houses and 
villages upon its flanks. From 73 to 79 there were 
several small shocks, and in August of the latter year 
occurred that awful eruption of ashes which de- 
stroyed the cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and 
Strabiae, and caused the death of the elder Pliny. 
From 79 to 1036, six other eruptions of ashes, sand, 
and shattered fragments of lava took place ; in the 
latter year occurred the first authentic overflow of 
lava, which was repeated in 1049 and 1138. After 
this the mountain rested for one hundred and sixty- 
eight years. Another great eruption then took 
place in 1306, and a slight one in 1500, followed 
by another repose, which lasted till 1631, when a 
fearful eruption took place, blowing up into the air 
the forest of brushwood that covered the sides of 
the mountain, and the luxuriant grassy plain at the 
bottom. Passing over several other eruptions of 
the mountain, we come to the one in October, 1822, 
which lasted nearly a month, and was attended by 
a series of loud detonations and explosions. Between 
1800 and 1822, the vast crater formed in 1631 was 
gradually getting filled up with lava, cinders, and 
ashes, the bottom presenting a rugged, rocky plain, 
covered with scattered blocks of lava and heaps of 
cinders. In this eruption of October, 1822, the 
force from below broke up this aggregation of lava 
blocks at the bottom, and hurled them all into the 
air, leaving behind a tremendous chasm, above 


three miles long, and three-fourths of a mile across. 
The depth of this chasm was at first about 2000 
feet, but as the walls of the crater continued to fall 
in, it became eventually reduced to less than half 
that depth. Previous to this eruption, the summit 
of the cone round the crater had been 4200 feet 
high ; after the eruption its elevation was found to 
be reduced to 3400 feet. Another eruption took 
place in 1833, and even as late as 1857 and 1858 
has Mount Vesuvius given uncomfortably convincing 
indications that it continues as much " alive" as ever. 

Mount jEtna, in Sicily, rises 10,874 feet above 
the level of the sea, of which the lower or bottom 
part, to the extent of some three thousand feet, con- 
sists of calcareous beds, associated with lavas and 
clays ; the remaining 7000 or 8000 feet have been 
formed by successive eruptions from the volcano. 
The upper 1100 feet consist of the cone of the 
crater, which rises from an irregular plain, about 
nine miles in its circumference. The great crater 
in the summit of this cone is perpetually emitting 
sulphureous vapours. 

One of the most remarkable volcanoes is that of 
Kilauea, in the Sandwich Islands, which burns con- 
tinually, and whose crater contains a sea of red-hot 
melted lava, sometimes several miles in diameter. 

The loftiest volcanoes known are those of Orizaba 
in Mexico, and Antisana and Aconagua in South 
America, which are from three to five miles in 


Mount Jorutto, in Mexico, affords a curious illus- 
tration of volca-nic action combined with extensive 
elevation. This vast mountain rises in the great 
plain of Malpays, which up to June, 1759, was 
never suspected to be the site of a volcano, although 
the basaltic hills of the neighbourhood clearly in- 
dicate that the district had at some very early 
period been the theatre of volcanic eruptions, which 
had filled up the original valleys. 

In the month of June, 1759, hollow murmurings 
began to be heard, speedily attended by earthquakes, 
which followed each other in rapid succession up 
to the month of September. The surface-soil at last 
swelled up like a large bladder, three or four miles 
square ; it finally burst open in various parts, flames 
issuing forth through the fissures, and burning frag- 
ments of rocks being thrown up high into the air. 
Six conical vents were thus formed in different 
parts of the area, of which the lowest was 800 feet 
high. Besides these, thousands of small cones or 
bosses arose, which cracking subsequently emitted 
aqueous and sulphureous vapours. These bosses are 
called in the country Hornitos, or small ovens. 

Towards the close of the month of September, the 
vast mountain Jorullo was pushed up bodily in a 
few days, by the subterranean force, to an elevation 
of 1 682 feet above what had been a plain up to the 
preceding month of June. The crater of Jorullo 
threw out immense streams of basaltic lava, which 
continued to flow till February, 1760, after which 


the district resumed its former stability, though it 
still remained far too hot to be habitable. In 1780, 
twenty years after the outburst, the heat of the 
hornitos was still so great that a cigar could readily be 
lighted by plunging it two or three inches into one of 
the lateral cracks. When Humboldt visited Jorullo 
in 1803, forty-three years after the eruption, he 
found around the base of the great cone a mass of 
matter, of convex form, about 500 feet high, near 
the cone, but sloping gradually as it receded from 
it; this mass, which covered to the extent of four 
square miles, was then still in a heated state. And 
twenty-two years later, in 1825, Mr. Bullock found 
the cones still smoking. 

Previous to the outburst, two purling streams 
had watered the plain of Malpays, the Outimbo, 
and the San Pedro. These two rivers ran into the 
crater, and lost themselves below at the eastern 
limit of the plain, but reappeared afterwards on the 
western limit as hot springs. 

Among the productions of volcanoes, emitted 
or ejected through their craters and vents, may be 
enumerated various gases such as hydrochloric 
acid gas, carbonic acid, hydrosulphuric acid, and 
gases formed by the several combinations of 
sulphur with oxygen ; aqueous vapour, lava, mine- 
rals, cinders, stones, sand, water, mud, and ashes 
which latter probably consist simply of pulverized 

The quantity of ashes discharged by volcanoes 


must be immense. During an eruption of Mount 
Cosiguiana, a volcano in the Gulf of Fonseca, on the 
shores of the Pacific, ashes fell as far as Truxillo, on 
the shores of the Gulf of Mexico ; also on board a 
ship at the time some 1200 miles westward of the 
volcano ; and four days after the eruption, at 
Kingston, in Jamaica, 700 miles eastward from it, 
having travelled there by an upper current of west 
wind, at the rate of 170 miles a day. For about 
thirty miles to the south of this volcano, ashes 
covered the ground three yards and a half deep ; 
and thousands of cattle, wild animals, and birds, 
perished under them. 

One of the most curious productions of a volcano 
is mud. The aqueous vapour emitted by the crater 
being condensed by the cold atmosphere, heavy rains 
are produced, which, falling upon the volcanic dust 
on the sides of the mountain, form a current of mud, 
generally called aqueous lava, which is more dreaded 
by those dwelling in the vicinity of a volcano than 
a stream of melted lava. But, after all, as this 
muddy stream is not actually ejected from the crater, 
but simply formed on the surface of volcanoes by 
the action of water upon the erupted matter, the 
term " mud volcano" is not exactly applicable in 
such cases. 

However, in some volcanic districts mud is occa- 
sionally found to ooze from the ground, and there 
are also, in different parts of the globe, real mud 
volcanoes, as for instance, the mud volcano of Jok- 


rnali, on the peninsula of Abscheron, in the Caspian 
Sea; that of Damak, in the province of Samarang, 
in the island of Java; the Salses of Girgenti in 
Sicily, and Sassueto in Northern Italy, &c., &c. 

One of the most remarkable of this class is the 
one described by Humboldt. This is situated at 
Turbaco, near Carthagena, in New Grenada, South 
America. It consists of some fifteen or twenty cones 
from nineteen to twenty -five feet high, and measur- 
ing round the base from seventy-eight to eighty-five 
feet each. These cones, or Volcancitos, as they are 
called in the language of the country, have a hollow 
on the top, measuring from fifteen to thirty inches in 
diameter, and filled in the driest seasons with muddy 
water, through which air-bubbles are constantly 
escaping : the temperature of the water is not higher 
than that of the surrounding atmosphere. 

Earthquakes are intimately connected with vol- 
canoes; they often precede volcanic eruptions, and 
arise from the same cause viz., from the movement 
of matter in the interior of the earth; only that 
their action is much more formidable and destructive, 
and the changes produced by them in the globe are 
much more varied and extensive. Landslips on the 
sides of mountains are most frequently attributable 
to them; they give rise to the formation of new 
lakes, and cause old ones to disappear; islands are 
swallowed up by them, and new ones arise in the 
sea as by magic; parts of continents subside and 
sink, and others are elevated; the relative positions 


of sea and land are changed, and rivers quit their 
former courses and ancient beds, seeking other 
channels and forming new beds. 

The action or movement of earthquakes is three- 
fold vertical, horizontal, and gyratory or circular. 

The vertical movement proceeds from below 
upwards, and may be likened to the explosion of a 
mine in a stone quarry. It produces cracks and fis- 
sures in the earth's crust. In many instances, the 
earth opens and closes rapidly; in others, portions 
of the crust slip down into the chasm, and disappear 
for ever. It was by a vertical earthquake move- 
ment that the city of Messina, in Sicily, was des- 
troyed in the year 1783. These vertical movements 
are felt even at sea. Thus, for instance, during the 
celebrated earthquake at Lisbon, in 1755, many 
ships at considerable distances from the actual focus 
of the movement, were violently shaken, the con- 
cussion in one ship far out in the Atlantic being 
so great, that the men were tossed up into the 
air a foot and a half perpendicularly from the deck. 

In the horizontal movement, the shock is propa- 
gated in a linear direction, producing undulations 
in the surface of the earth, bearing some resemblance 
to the waves of the sea, and the sight of which, 
curious enough, causes a swimming in the head, 
like sea-sickness. 

These undulatory shocks in a linear direction 
must of course be understood to move in waves of 
great breadth as well as length. The horizontal 


earthquake movement which visited Syria in 1837, 
was felt in a line five hundred miles long, by ninety 
miles wide. 

In accordance with a general law in mechanics, 
the undulations of horizontal earthquake movements 
finish by cracking the superficial soil and strata of 
the earth's crust. In the earthquake which, in 
1811, convulsed the district of New Madrid, South 
Carolina, the surface earth between New Madrid 
and Little Prairie rose in great undulations to a 
considerable height, till the earth waves burst, 
when volumes of water and sand, and masses of pit- 
coal, were hurled up through the crevices high into 
the air; large lakes of twenty miles in extent were 
on this occasion formed in the course of a single 
hour, whilst some of the ancient lakes of the dis- 
trict were drained and completely dried up. 

As a general rule, horizontal shocks proceeding 
onward unresisted, are not considered to be very 
dangerous. The most terrible horizontal earth- 
quakes are those where the shocks, proceeding from 
two different foci of action, happen to cross each 
other. A town standing on the ground at the 
point of intersection of the two waves has little 
chance indeed of escaping the crash and crush pro- 
duced by their meeting. 

In the circular or gyratory movement, the earth- 
quake action moves in a circuit, sometimes very 
extensive, in other, but rare instances, of very small 
compass ; in the latter case, the movement proves 


generally most dangerous and destructive, of which 
the earthquakes at Quito, in 1797, and in Calabria, 
in 1783, afford convincing illustrations. In cases of 
this description it has happened that solid walls 
have changed their place, with the masonry perfectly 
undisturbed ; rows of trees straight and parallel 
have been inflected ; and, more remarkable still, 
entire fields, with different sorts of grain growing in 
them, have exchanged places and crops ! Humboldt 
tells us that at Riobamba, South America, destroyed 
by the terrific convulsion of 1797, he was shown a 
place among the ruins where the whole furniture of 
one house had been carried bodily by the movement 
of the earthquake under the roof of another. 

As an illustration of a circular movement upon 
an immense scale, may be instanced the famous 
earthquake which destroyed Lisbon in November, 
1 755, and afforded the great Pombal the opportunity 
of erecting those solid wooden-framed stone build- 
ings that have so gloriously withstood later shocks, 
even up to periods so recent as November, 1855, 
and November, 1858. The shock in this instance 
was felt in many parts of Europe, and on the north 
coast of Africa, as well as in North America and 
the West Indies. 

As has already been intimated, earthquakes are 
generally attended with more or less extensive ele- 
vation or subsidence of land. We will give here a 
few instances in illustration. 

In the earthquake which visited Jamaica in 1692, 


several large storehouses in the harbour of Port 
Royal subsided to a depth of between twenty-four 
and forty-eight feet under water, apparently without 
disturbing the masonry, as the buildings remained 
standing, with the tops of the chimneys erect above 
the water. A large tract of land around the town, 
about 1000 acres in extent, subsided in less than a 
minute, and was covered over by the waters of the 

The fearful shock which destroyed Lima, in Peru, 
in 1746, submerged the entire coast near Callao, 
converting it into a bay of the sea. 

In the great earthquake of 1755, the new quay, at 
Lisbon, then recently built of massive and solid marble, 
on which a vast number of people had collected for 
safety, sank suddenly down with its living load, and 
not one of the bodies ever rose to the surface again ; 
and, more extraordinary still, a number of boats 
and ships lying at anchor a little distance off the 
quay, went suddenly down with the body of water 
beneath them as into a whirlpool, and not a frag- 
ment of the wrecks was ever after seen ; upon 
sounding the spot afterwards, it was ascertained to 
be some 600 feet deep. 

Before the earthquake which visited Messina in 
1783, the ground along the port of that city was 
perfectly level ; after the shock it was found to slope 
considerably towards the sea, the latter itself getting 
deeper and deeper as the distance from the shore 
increased an indication that the sloping of the 


coast continued far under the water, and that ac- 
cordingly the bottom of the sea must have sunk as 
well as the shore. 

During the same earthquake, many houses in the 
streets of the town of Terra Nova, in Calabria, were 
raised above their usual level, others sank down in 
the ground. Near the town was a circular tower of 
solid masonry ; part of this tower remained uude- 
stroyed, but one side of it was lifted up by the 
action of the earthquake much above the other, the 
foundations of the upraised portion being laid bare 
to the view ; though, strange to say, the divided walls 
were found to adhere throughout as firmly to each 
other, and to fit as closely, as if they had been so 
constructed on purpose, and cemented together from 
the beginning. 

Towards the close of last century a remarkable 
subsidence took place in North America, just above 
the falls of the Columbia River. In 1807, American 
travellers found here a forest of pines under water, 
standing erect in the body of the river. 

The most extensive elevation of land by earth- 
quake is that which took place in 1822, on the coast 
of Chili, South America, in which an area of about 
100,000 square miles, was raised three, four, six, 
and seven feet above the former level. 

In 1819, a great subsidence of land took place at 
the mouth of the river Indus, in Hindostan, the 
bed of the river sinking eighteen feet; the sea 
rushing into the mouth of the Indus, in a few hours 


converted a tract of land of some 2000 square 
miles area, into an inland sea. To the north-west 
of the subsided district, and running in a parallel 
direction with it, one of the level plains about this 
region, some fifty miles in length from east to west, 
and about sixteen miles wide from north to south, 
was uniformly raised ten feet above the level of the 

We will now dismiss this part of the subject with 
a mere passing allusion to the well known changes 
of level of the celebrated temple of Puzzuoli, near 
Naples ; the rising and sinking of the land in Scan- 
dinavia ; and submarine forests on the shores of 
England, France, North America, &c. ; and will 
conclude this chapter with a few brief remarks 
about submarine volcanoes and extinct volcanoes. 

The subterranean fires, the source and cause of 
volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, act also on the 
beds which form the bottom of the sea. When the 
vents formed by volcanic action lie beneath the 
waters of the ocean, they are called " submarine 
volcanoes." The existence and action of submarine 
volcanoes, long suspected and conjectured, has since 
the beginning of this century been clearly proved, 
by the formation of new islands above the waters 
of the ocean. 

The first well-ascertained instance of the eleva- 
tion of a new island by a submarine eruption, 
occurred in 1811, near St. Michael, in the Azores. 
Various eruptions had at different times taken 


place in the neighbourhood. During the latter 
half of 1810, several minor shocks had been felt; 
but on the 31st of January and 1st of February, 
1811, the convulsion reached the highest point, 
when sulphureous vapours were seen to rise out of 
the sea, about two miles from the coast, and spread 
in all directions ; jets of flame attended the rising 
of these vapours, which was speedily followed by 
columns of volcanic ashes, and other erupted mate- 
rials ; in about eight days this eruption terminated, 
when it was found that the bottom of the sea, pre- 
viously from 300 to 500 feet deep in this spot, 
had been lifted up nearly to a level with the sur- 
face of the water. About four months after, on 
the 13th of June, 1811, another eruption took place 
about two miles and a half from the scene of the 
former, which reached its greatest violence on the 
17th of June, columns of ashes and smoke being 
whirled up many hundred feet high above the sea. 
At the close of the eruption an island became 
visible, which gradually rose to a height of three 
hundred feet above the sea. Captain Tillard, of the 
Sabrina, visited the island, which he found rather 
too hot to walk on, and gave it the name of his 
vessel. It presented at one end a conical hill, and 
at the other a deep crater, which sent forth jets of 
flames, though it was under water at full tide. The 

' O 

continued eruptions of hot stones, sand, and ashes, 
from the crater, raised the conical hill at the one 
side of the island eventually six hundred feet above 


the sea. However, in the last days of February, 
1812, the entire island sank into the sea, and dis- 
appeared without leaving a vestige behind. 

In July, 1818, violent spoutings and jettings of 
steam and water were observed at a spot some thirty 
miles to the south-west of Sicily, where the sea was 
known to be 600 feet deep. On the 18th of the 
month a small island made its appearance, with a 
burning crater in the centre of it, ejecting ashes, 
cinders, and thick volumes of smoke, and covering 
the sea around with floating cinders, and shoals of 
dead fishes. 

The new island rose gradually to an elevation of 
nearly 200 feet above the sea ; it measured about 
three miles round at the base. The crater, in its 
centre, constituted a basin 600 feet in diameter, 
full of dingy red water, boiling. 

After having continued above the sea for nearly 
three months, the island, now generally known in 
the books by the name of " Graham Island" sank 
gradually back into the sea ; towards the end of 
October it was again nearly on a level with the sur- 
face of the water ; it disappeared eventually alto- 
gether, leaving behind, however, a most dangerous 
reef of hard volcanic rock, just eleven feet under 
water, encompassed by shoals, consisting of cinders 
and sand. 

Another volcanic island rose on the coast of Ice- 
land, during the tremendous eruption of Skaptaar 
Jokul, in 1783. This island also, which was called 
Nyb'e, sank afterwards down again into the sea. 


Some of these volcanic islands are of a more per- 
manent character ; as, for instance, the island of New 
Kaineni, near Santorin, in the Grecian Archipelago, 
which was raised up by a submarine volcanic erup- 
tion in 1707, and continues to the present day above 

There are many mountains whose summits and 
depressions, though now covered with herbage, and, 
in some instances, the sites of villages and cities, 
bear a close resemblance to the cones and craters of 
active volcanoes ; and whose constituent rocks are 
decidedly volcanic. Geologists apply to such moun- 
tains the term " extinct volcanoes" which, however, 
is intended to signify simply that no eruption has 
taken place from them for ages ; but by no means 
implies that they will never be active again. Mount 
Vesuvius, which at some geological era had clearly 
been an active volcano, had slumbered for ages in a 
state of apparent extinction, when the terrible 
eruption that buried Herculaneum and Pompeii 
under a sea of volcanic ashes, revealed once more 
the true nature of the mountain. 

In certain localities are found vents which emit 
only gaseous exhalations and aqueous vapour. 
Such vents or solfataras, as they are usually called, 
are properly looked upon in the light of half-extinct 
volcanoes, which may at any time suddenly burst 
forth again with all the terrific violence of true vol- 
canic eruptions. 

Extinct volcanoes are found not only in volcanic 


regions, but also in places presenting, with the ex- 
ception of hot wells and mineral springs, no traces 
of volcanic activity within historical periods. 

Among extinct volcanoes those of central France 
have attracted most attention. In the districts of 
Auvergne, Velay, and the Vivarais, there are seen 
several hundred volcano-shaped conical hills, with 
more or less perfectly-formed craters on their tops. 
These conical hills are called in the language of the 
country " Puys" which means mountain peaks. 
They are all of them dome-shaped, varying in 
height from 500 feet to 2800 feet above the level 
of the plain from which they rise in an irregular 
chain, thirty miles in length and two miles in 
breadth ; the plain itself, some forty-five miles long 
and twenty miles wide, is 1200 feet above the level 
of the sea. 

All the cones are formed of volcanic materials, 
such as lava, sand, and cinders; and in many of them 
are found well-defined craters. The highest of these 
is called " Puy de Dome" It is 4000 feet above 
the level of the sea ; it is composed entirely of vol- 
canic materials, and has a regular crater, measuring 
fifteen hundred feet round, and three hundred feet 

On the top of another of these remarkable cones, 
called the " Puy de Pariou," there is a very deep 
extinct crater, a mile round, which is now closed 
in, and covered with turf and grass. From the 
lower part of this conical hill a stream of lava has 


issued, which lies there now, rugged and black, 
covering the plain with volcanic cinders to the 
depth of about twenty feet. 

Similar extinct volcanoes are found in the south 
of Sicily, the neighbourhood of Naples, Hungary, 
the lower provinces of the Rhine, and the north 
of Spain. 

In England, Scotland, and Ireland, although no 
such specimens of extinct volcanoes, in the form of 
hills with cones and craters, are found, yet rocks of 
volcanic origin abound ; and there can be no doubt 
but that the remarkable basaltic rocks of Staffa and 
the Giant's Causeway are the productions of an 
extinct volcano. 

The absence of cones and craters, and of streams 
of cooled lava issuing from the bases of the basaltic 
hills of the British Isles, is owing simply to the 
circumstance that the eruptions of these volcanoes, 
in the period of their activity, took place under the 
bed of the ocean. 

onterfttl f amp. 

' ' Know the great genius of this land 
Has many a light aerial band, 
Who all, beneath his high command, 

As arts or arms they understand, 

Their labours ply." BURNS. 

GENII, afrits, and ghouls, have long since lost their 
terrors, but the wonderful stories told about them 
will continue to charm the youthful mind for cen- 
turies to come. Chief among these stories is that 
of Aladdin, the poor boy, who became the fortu- 
nate possessor of a wonderful lamp, which gave him 
control over a powerful race of genii. By merely 
rubbing the lamp he summoned these superhuman 
servants, who waited on him hand and foot, brought 
him untold wealth, transported him from place to 
place, and fulfilled his wildest desires. Upon this 
beautiful Arabian romance we ground our con- 
cluding fairy tale of science. 

Our wonderful lamp is merely a poetical image 
of Science. The lamp of science dispels intellectual 
darkness, and floods the world with its all-pene- 


trating light. The night-prowling ghouls, Igno- 
rance and Superstition, dare not encounter its 
glancing rays, and descend shrieking into the 
abyss, while Industry toils in the glare, and seems 
to acquire new vigour whenever the flame increases 
in brilliancy. 

The attendant genii of this wonderful lamp 
are those powers of the material world which 
have been subjugated by man the Aladdin of 
our story. 

Among these genii the almost omnipotent agent 
Steam ranks first. The miracles wrought by this 
slave of the lamp transcend all the wonders con- 
ceived by the Oriental romancists. " By its agency," 
says Dr. Lardner, "coal is made to minister in a 
variety of ways to the uses of society. By it coals 
are taught to spin, weave, dye, print, and dress 
silks, cottons, woollen and other cloths ; to make 
paper, and print books on it when made ; to con- 
vert corn into flour ; to press oil from the olive and 
wine from the grape ; to draw up metal from the 
bowels of the earth ; to pound and smelt it, to melt 
and mould it, to forge it, to roll it, and to fashion 
it into every form that the most wayward caprice 
can desire. Do we traverse the deep, they lend 
wings to the ship, and bid defiance to the natural 
opponents, the winds and the tides ! Does the wind- 
bound ship desire to get out of port to start on her 
voyage, steam throws its arms around her, and 
places her on the open sea ! Do we traverse the 


land, steam is harnessed to our chariot, and we 
outstrip the flight of the swiftest bird, and equal 
the fury of the tempest !" 

We may form an idea of the versatile powers of 
steam if we consider the manufacture of this 
volume. It was printed by steam upon paper made 
by steam. The rags of which the sheets were 
formed were woven by steam, their separate threads 
having been previously spun by steam. Moreover, 
by steam the types were cast in metal, that the 
same agent had raised from the mine ; by steam, 
too, the mill-board and cloth which form the cover 
were fabricated, and the thread which fastens the 
sheets together was twisted. 

The author we have quoted above gives the fol- 
lowing excellent illustrations of the power of 
steam : A train of coaches weighing about 80 
tons, and transporting 240 passengers with their 
luggage, has been taken from Liverpool to Birming- 
ham, and back from Birmingham to Liverpool ; the 
trip each way taking about four hours and a 
quarter, stoppages included. The distance between 
these places by railway is 95 miles. The double 
journey of 190 miles was effected by the mechanical 
force produced in the combustion of four tons of 
coke, the value of which is about five pounds. To 
carry the same number of passengers daily between 
the same places, by stage-coaches on a common 
road, would require twenty coaches and an esta- 
blishment of 3800 horses, with which the journey in 


each direction would be performed in about twelve 
hours, stoppages included. 

The circumference of the earth measures 25,000 
miles ; if it were begirt with an iron railway, such 
a train as above described, carrying 240 passengers, 
would be drawn round it by the combustion of 
about thirty tons of coke, and the circuit would be 
accomplished in five weeks. 

In the drainage of the Cornish mines, a bushel of 
coals usually raises 40,000 tons of water afoot high ; 
but it has, on some occasions, raised 60,000 tons of 
water the same height. Let iis take its labour at 
50,000 tons raised one foot high. A horse worked in 
a fast stage-coach pulls against an average resistance 
of about a quarter of a hundred weight. Against 
this he is able to work at the usual speed through 
about eight miles daily ; his work is therefore equi- 
valent to 1000 tons raised one foot. A bushel of 
coals, consequently, as used in Cornwall, perfonns 
as much labour as a day's work of fifty such horses. 

The Great Pyramid of Egypt stands upon a base 
measuring 700 feet each way, and is 500 feet high, 
its weight being 12,760 millions of pounds. Hero- 
dotus states that in constructing it 100,000 men 
were constantly employed twenty years. The mate- 
rials of this Pyramid would be raised from the 
ground to their present position by the combustion 
of about 480 tons of coal. 

The Menai Bridge consists of about 2000 tons of 
iron, and its height above the level of the water 


is 120 feet. Its mass might be lifted from the level 
of the water to its present position by the com- 
bustion of four bushels of coal.* The reader will 
hardly require to be informed that the above illus- 
trations show what might be done by the steam 
generated during the combustion of certain quan- 
tities of coal, provided its entire strength could be 
applied to the fulfilment of the required results. 

Let us now briefly consider some of the real 
achievements of Steam, and other genii, over which 
man, as the holder of the lamp of science, has abso- 
lute control. 

The Great Eastern, or Leviathan, that stupendous 
product of engineering daring, is a structure immea- 
surably more wonderful than Aladdin's palace. While 
this ship was in course of construction, the genii of the 
lamp had no rest, and their Cyclopean labours excited 
the wonder of all beholders. Although building in the 
midst of the largest collection of seafaring people in 
the world, the Leviathan was a puzzle to them all. 

None of the old-accustomed sights and sounds of 
ship-building attended the growth of this monster of 
the deep. The visitor to the works of Scott Russell 
and Co., at Millwall, looked in vain for the merry 
ship-carpenters, caulking away with monotonous 
dead-sounding blows ; for the artisans chipping with 
their adzes, rearing up huge ribs, or laying the mas- 
sive keel; and for the bright augers gleaming in 
the sun as sturdy arms worked out the bolt-holes. 
* Lardner, on the Steam Engine. 


What he did see might well excite his sm-prise. 
He saw the giant arm of Steam welding huge shafts, 
and punching inch-plates of iron as quickly and as 
noiselessly as a lady punches cardboard for a fancy- 
fair ornament. Steel, urged by the same potent 
genie, was seen showing its mastery over iron ; 
while the huge lathes revolved, and the planing- 
machine steadily pursued its resistless course ; whilst, 
in place of the shavings of the carpenter, long ring- 
lets of a dull grey metal cumbered the ground. The 
ship-carpenter was transmuted into a brawny smith, 
and the civil engineer had taken the place of the 
marine architect. 

The Leviathan is essentially an iron ship, more 
completely so perhaps than any vessel hitherto built. 
Iron plates, angle irons, and iron rivets form the 
sinews, muscles, and bones of this monster of the 
age of iron. The plates vary in thickness from half 
an inch to an inch; the rivets are about an inch in 
diameter, and it is these that hold the vast fabric 

In fastening the plates, the mighty genie Heat lent 
his aid. When the holes in the plates to be held 
together had been brought into exact opposition, bolts 
at a white heat were one by one introduced, and 
firmly riveted whilst in that condition by three 
men, one holding the bolt in its position by placing 
a hammer against its head on the inside of the ship, 
whilst the other two with alternate blows produced 
the rivet-head on the outside. The rivets contracted 


in cooling, and drew the plates together with the 
force of a vice. Before the ship could swim, no less 
than two millions of these bolts had to be made 

We will not attempt to give a minute description 
of this steam-made vessel, but will confine our 
observations to those points in which the Leviathan 
differs from other ships. 

Let us first consider the form of the great ship. 
Viewed end-wise, its outline is nearly square, for 
the bottom is perfectly flat throughout a breadth of 
forty feet, without a keel or any other protuberance. 
Its broadside is almost a perfect quadrangle, quite 
horizontal at the top, and very nearly vertical at 
the two ends. But although the general outline of 
the Leviatlian is formed of nearly straight lines, this 
ship has curves of wondrous delicacy curves that 
bring the bow to the sharpness of a wedge, by gra- 
dations which the eye can scarcely follow, while the 
stern below the low- water line has convexities and 
hollows gradually melting into each other. 

The Leviathan is constructed on the wave-line 
principle; that is to say, there is a certain similarity 
between the curves of the hull and the curves of 
a wave. The best form of a ship, which should 
force its way through the water so as to meet with 
the least resistance from the fluid, was until recently 
unknown. The head and breast of a fish, and the 
breast of a duck or swan, were the favourite models 
for the ship's bow. These forms were some-vhat 


modified by experience, but they still remained the 

Some five-and-twenty years ago, Mr. Scott 
Russell, then an unknown ship-builder, ventured 
to question the fitness of these two forms. The 
fish form would be the best and most perfect, un- 
doubtedly, provided the ship swam under water 
like a fish, instead of half in and half out ; and the 
duck's-breast bow might prove faultless, if a vessel 
were merely required to float along the surface like 
a duck, and not to swim with speed. But he saw 
that the best constructed ships heaped up a mass of 
water before them, and that the resistance of this 
anterior wave could not be overcome without an 
unprofitable expenditure of power. 

Every vessel in passing over the sea displaces a 
certain amount of water, proportional to its size 
and draught, and then the water closes in behind 
her to fill up the hollow. Scott Russell at length 
discovered the form of ship that would offer the 
least resistance to the water. He found that the 
lines or curvature of the bow of a ship ought to re- 
semble the curvature of the wave of displaced water, 
and that the stern should be curved like the wave 
of replacement. The mark that still-water makes 
on the hull of a ship floating on it is called the 
water-line. Scott Russell called his curve the wave- 
line, because he found it precisely the same as the 
line which the wave of displaced water marked 
along the side of the ship, by which it harmlessly 
glided without impeding its motion. To test the 


merits of the wave-line principle, one hundred and 
fifty models were constructed, and no less than 
20,000 experiments were made, which all tended 
towards one result the desirability of assimilating 
the form of a ship in certain parts to the shape of 

The great point in practical navigation is to 
obtain a passage for a ship by removing or dis- 
placing the particles of water as quietly as possible, 
and to no further distance on either side than the 
greatest width of the vessel. 

On one occasion Scott Russell caused a model 
boat, 75 feet long, to be drawn along a canal at a 
very high speed, and made the prow pass between 
two oranges floating on the water. These oranges, 
which represented on a large and visible scale two 
particles of water, were observed merely to touch 
the sides of the vessel until they got amidships, 
where they remained quiescent until they closed in 
behind the stern. 

The first boat constructed on the new principle 
was called the Wave. This little yacht, some seventy 
feet long, and seven and a-half tons burden, verified 
all the inventor's predictions, and may be said to 
have heralded in a new era of ship-building. The 
Leviathan, as far as its lines are concerned, is but a 
magnified copy of the little Wave boat ; and there 
is little doubt that it will eclipse all other vessels in 
speed, as well as in vastness, whenever it has a 
chance of displaying its powers. 

We have dwelt upon the wave-line principle, as 


man is solely indebted to the wonderful lamp for its 
discovery. The form of least resistance could never 
have been discovered by accident. The old ship- 
builders jumped at the conclusion that the fish's 
head and the duck's breast were the only perfect 
types of a vessel's bow; but the magical wave-line 
could not be introduced into naval architecture 
until science had revealed the true laws of fluid 
motion and resistance. 

We have said that the hull of the Leviathan is 
formed of unyielding plates of inch iron ; also that 
this gigantic hull has innumerable curves, which 
die away into each other by insensible gradations. 
At the first glance these two statements appear 
irreconcilable. How can these delicate curves be 
produced by any aggregation of rectilinear pieces of 
flat boiler-plate 1 In ordinary wooden ships the 
planking by its elasticity allows itself to be modelled 
to the ribs ; but here there are no ribs, in the true 
sense of the word, and the form of the vessel must 
depend upon the inclination given to each separate 
piece of iron before the fastening process is com- 
menced. And such in fact is the case. Every 
individual plate, before being fixed in its proper 
position, was the subject of a separate study to the 
engineer. Of the thirty thousand plates that com- 
pose the hulk of this great ship, only a few situated 
in the midship section are alike either in size or 
curve. For each a model in wood, or " template," 
as it is technically called, had originally to be made, 


and by these patterns the plates were cut into their 
required shape by the huge steam-shears, in exactly 
the same manner as a tailor cuts out various por- 
tions of a garment. The " list," or inclination given 
to each plate, was the next process; and this was 
produced by passing the plate through a system of 
rollers, which could be so reversed in their action, 
and so adjusted, as to give any required curve. 

The Leviathan was not built in the usual manner ; 
there was no skeleton to indicate what it was about 
to become. The reason of this was, that on account of 
the enormous length of the ship, it was necessary to 
make use of a different mode of construction to 
that generally pursued in building ships, and for 
this purpose the tubular principle, so successfully 
carried out by Robert Stephen son in the Menai 
Bridge, was adopted. 

The framework of the ship may be described as 
consisting, primarily, of thirty-five horizontal webs 
or ribs of iron plate, each nearly three feet wide, 
and immensely strengthened at all the points of 
junction. They extend from end to end of the 
vessel side by side at the bottom, and one over the 
other at the sides, at distances varying from three 
to five feet apart. On either side the uppermost 
web is about five feet above low-water mark. These 
webs are crossed by huge partitions of a similar 
construction placed just sixty feet apart. Plates of 
the best and toughest iron are riveted on each side 
'of the thirty-five longitudinal webs or ribs, so as to 


form a double skin to the ship, or a dermis and epi- 
dermis ; the Leviathan is therefore two ships, one 
within the other. The whole framework forms a 
system of cells, which, like the Menai tube, com- 
bines extreme lightness with great strength. 

So thoroughly close are the joints of this frame- 
work we quote, with some modification, the words 
of a competent authority that any one cell would 
hold water without its running into the adjoining 
cells ; and water is actually to be admitted to some 
of them, to assist in ballasting or in "trimming" 
ship, or in giving it a "lift" or tilt- up when the 
bottom needs repair, taps and valves being arranged 
for that purpose. Above the level already named, 
five feet higher than low- water mark, the hull is 
formed of bars and plates as below ; biit it is not 
cellular, being only one layer in thickness. The 
various decks, whole and partial, are mostly formed 
of iron. The upper deck is so strong that it is cal- 
culated that the whole weight of the vessel might 
be suspended from it ; like the lower part of the 
hull it has a cellular structure, and will help to 
maintain the bulging sides in their places, at the 
same time that it supports the visible wooden deck. 

At the bow, or head of the vessel, the decks and 
partitions, the walls and casings, the supports and 
ansle-irons are so numerous that the whole forms a 


mass nearly as strong as solid iron. To strengthen 
the interior of the mighty ship, to define its shape, 
and to separate it into water-tight compartments, 


the ten bulkheads or cross-walls of thick iron plate, 
already alluded to, extend from side to side, and 
from bottom to top, with no openings whatever 
below the level of the passenger saloons. So im- 
permeable are these walls that according to the 
view of the builders any one of the twelve com- 
partments into which the ship is thus divided might 
be filled with water without flooding those adjacent 
to it ; and, accordingly, a hole rent in the hull 
would, so to speak, only have one-tenth part of a 
chance in sinking the vessel. Besides these trans- 
verse walls, there are two longitudinal iron walls 
running along rather more than half the length of 
the vessel ; it will thus be seen that the hollow as 
well as the shell of the vast fabric is cellular. 

What with the two iron decks, the two longitu- 
dinal iron walls, and the ten transverse iron walls, 
besides partial decks, and walls of smaller size, the 
interior is made into a series of sixty or eighty vast 
iron boxes, a honeycomb of quadranglar cells, the 
walls of which give strength mutually one to 
another. Let a strain come in whatever direction 
it may, there is an iron wall ready to baffle it. The 
engineers may possibly be too sanguine, but they 
believe the Leviathan will prove the taughtest, trim- 
mest, driest ship ever built, irrespective of its more 
important qualities. They comfort those who dread 
sea-sickness with the hope that a ship too long to 
pitch and too flat to roll, will be bearable even to 
" the gentlemen of England who live at home at 


ease ;" and they talk of the ship being buoyant even 
if chopped into ten ships like those animals which 
seem to have ten lives instead of one.* 

It is not easy to form, an adequate idea of the 
dimensions of this iron monster. When we recollect 
that the Great Western, which twenty years ago was 
regai'ded as a marvel of vastness, is 236 feet long ; 
the Great Britain, the first ocean screw steamer, is 
322 feet long ; and that the majestic Himalaya is 
370 feet long we may get, by comparison, a rough 
notion of the magnitude of the Leviathan, which is 
680 feet long between the perpendiculars, and 691 
feet on the upper deck. The breadth of the hull 
is 83 feet, the extreme breadth across the paddle- 
boxes 118 feet, and the depth from deck to keel 58 
feet. In the construction of the hull 30,000 iron 
plates were used, and these plates were fastened 
with 2,000,000 rivets. The weight of iron in the 
hull amounts to 8000 tons, and the weight of the 
entire vessel when voyaging with its passengers, 
crew, coals, and cargo on board, will be from 25,000 
to 30,000 tons. 

Many ingenious comparisons have been made to 
enable the mind to form a true conception of the 
value of the above figures. The London streets 
and squares have frequently been selected as fami- 
liar illustrations of the Leviathan's dimensions. 
Thus it has been said that if any gigantic power 
could transport the monster to Pall Mall, or Oxford- 
* Year-Book for 1858. 


street, or St. James's-street, the hull would not 
sink to the roadway, as its sides would rest on the 
opposite parapets. Even Regent-street would not 
receive it without the paddle-boxes; and with those 
appendages, the broadest street in London, Portland- 
place, would barely afford it room. The paddle- 
wheels alone are higher than any but the highest 
houses. If stretched over Russell-square, one end 
would rest on the house-tops of the north side, and 
the other on those of the south. 

Everything relating to the Leviathan has a mag- 
nitude proportional to that of the vast hull; thus 
Alexis Soyer, the celebrated chef de cuisine, made a 
calculation that one hundred persons could dine in 
one of its funnels, and actually proposed that a 
banquet should be spread for five hundred guests 
in the five chimneys before they were fitted to the 

Let us now briefly consider the arrangements 
that have been made to give the iron monster life 
and motion. Mr. Brunei decided not to trust so 
precious a human freight, and so vast an amount of 
cargo as his big ship is designed to carry to any 
single propelling power, but resolved to supply it 
with three the screw, the paddle, and the sail. 

The paddle-wheels, which are considerably larger 
than the circus at Astley's, are to be propelled by 
monster engines, the motive-power of which will 
be generated by four boilers each weighing about 
fifty tons, and containing forty tons of water. 


These engines, the largest ever constructed with 
oscillating cylinders, are nevertheless inferior to 
those devoted to the screw-propeller. 

This screw is twenty-four feet in diameter, and 
weighs thirty-six tons. Its four fans, which were 
cast separately, and afterwards fitted into a large 
cast-iron boss, have been aptly compared to the 
blade-bones of some huge animal of the pre-Adamite 
world. Besides being pulled along by the paddles, 
and pushed along by the screw, the Leviathan will 
also be propelled by the wind when exceptional cir- 
cumstances render such aid desirable. There are 
six masts, five of iron and one of wood, and on 
these masts will, or may be, spread about 6500 
square yards of canvass. Under ordinary circum- 
stances the Leviathan will go faster than the wind, 
and sails will prove an impediment rather than an 
assistance to the ship's progress. It is not probable, 
therefore, that they will be much resorted to except 
for the purpose of steadying or of helping to steer 
the huge vessel. The steam-power will be truly 
enormous; it has been stated that, were everything 
put to work at its fullest, the whole series of engines 
would work up to 11,500 horse-power. This power 
would suffice to raise 200,000 gallons of water to 
the top of the Monument in less than a minute, or 
to work all the cotton mills of Manchester. 

When all the engines are in full work, the great 
source of power, coal, will be needed to the extent 
of 250 tons each day. For a voyage to Australia 


and back, 12,000 tons at the very least will be re- 
quired, yet such is the capacity of the Leviathan for 
fuel, that this immense quantity can be stowed away 
in the coal-bunkers without encroaching at all on 
the space set apart for machinery, cargo, passengers, 
and crew. 

The great ship will carry twenty little ships, all 
fitted with masts and sails complete. In addition 
to these, two small screw-steamers will hang astern 
abaft the paddle-boxes, each of which will be 100 
feet long, 16 feet beam, 120 tons burthen, and 
40-horse power. These will be raised and lowered 
by auxiliary steam-engines, and will be used for 
landing and embarking passengers, with their lug- 
gage. They will look like toy-steamers when sus- 
pended at the sides of the sea monster, though they 
will be considerably larger than most of the above- 
bridge Thames steamers. 

The passenger-arrangements are on a correspond- 
ing scale with everything else. There are ample 
means for accommodating 4000 guests in this float- 
ing city, besides the crew of 400. The iron parti- 
tions we have already described divide the interior 
capacity of the hull into separate compartments or 
boxes ; and into each box we may suppose a large 
house to be let down. A clever writer has thus 
filled up in imagination five of these great boxes : 
" If we were to take the row of houses belonging to 
Mivart's, and drop them down one gulf; take 
Farrance's, and drop it down a second ; take Mor- 


ley's, at Charing Cross, and fit it into a third ; and 
adjust the Great Western Hotel, at Paddington, 
and the Great Northern, at King's Cross, into 
apertures four and five, we should get some faint 
idea of the nature of the accommodation in the 
Great Eastern." 

We have only adverted to a few of the wonders 
of this leviathan this floating palace of Aladdin, 
which owes its existence to the potent genii of the 
lamp of science. Although this crowning marvel 
of our wondrous age still rests in the Thames like 
a giant spell-bound, we cannot doubt that it has a 
mighty future before it. All who watched the 
Leviathan's growth, and followed its progress along 
the launching ways, must long to see it " walk the 
waters like a thing of life," and show its mastery 
over those waves which it so closely resembles in 
its graceful curves. In justice to the wise men 
Brunei and Russell, who have wrought such mira- 
cles in the subjugation of the powers of nature, the 
genii of our wonderful lamp, we trust that the 
merits of their daring achievement in ship-building 
will soon be tested. 

Let us now glance at another marvellous product 
of science, which rivals all the magical fabrics 
described in the Arabian Nights. We refer to the 
Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits. 

The deep chasm which separates the Isle of 
Anglesey from the mainland had long been a 
serious obstacle to the modern Aladdin, who could 
not brook the delay which attended the use of 


ferry-boats. He could not rest satisfied until he 
had bridged-over the intervening strip of sea ; and 
he therefore summoned the potent genii of the 
lamp, who helped him to form a magical roadway 
in mid-air. This cobweb-like structure is known as 
the Suspension Bridge of Telford. In course of 
time, however, Aladdin began to wish for a more 
substantial fabric, across which he might urge his 
steam-drawn chariot. To obtain such a bridge as 
he desired, he sought the aid of a potent magician, 
who had long been famed for his power over the 
genii of the lamp. 

In plain langiiage, a railway bridge across the 
Menai Straits was required, and its construction 
was left to Mr. Robert Stephenson. 

The seven labours of Hercules were insignificant 
tasks compared with that which the railway au- 
thorities set before the great engineer, perfectly 
satisfied that he would accomplish it by some means 
or other. Yet the difficulties which Stephenson 
had to contend with seemed insurmountable, and a 
less daring genius would have shrunk from en- 
countering them. 

Those captive princesses of fairy lore who were 
doomed to draw water from a well without a bucket, 
to catch fish without a net, and to spin a thread 
without either wheel or distaff, were not more un- 
fortunately situated than was Robert Stephenson, 
though he has never yet been made the hero of a 
romantic story. 

" You must build a bridge," said his employers, 


" that the heaviest trains may pass over in safety at 
any speed. This bridge may have any form you 
please; but we wish you to remember that its 
rupture would be attended with most disastrous 
consequences, and we therefore urge upon you the 
necessity of making it strong enough to resist every 

" If you build a railway bridge across the Straits," 
said the Lords of the Admiralty, " you must not 
interfere with the navigation. Your viaduct must 
be at least one hundred feet above the level of the 
water, so that ships may pass beneath, and it must 
be constructed without the aid of scaffolding." 

Even the elements seemed to set their face against 
the proposed bridge. The Straits are above twelve 
miles in length, the shores throughout being rocky 
and precipitous. The water that fills the passage is 
never at rest, and the fall of the tide is from twenty 
to twenty-five feet. Moreover, the wind blows 
through the Straits with such violence, that a bridge 
must be strong indeed to withstand its rude shocks. 

Imagine an enchanted engineer with such a task 
before him as the construction of a bridge a hundred 
feet above the tumultuous waters, without scaffold- 
ing of any kind, and you will be able to get a faint 
idea of the difficulties which he had to overcome 
before a railway train could pass from Carnarvon to 

We will not allude to the various plans which 
Stephenson conceived and discarded before the idea 


of a tubular bridge took possession of his mind. 
This last project, destined to prove so successful, has 
been well compared to a beam along which a man 
scrambles when escaping from a fire. Stephenson 
was bent upon crossing the Straits ; but as he could 
not build an ordinary bridge, when under such ex- 
traordinary restrictions, he resolved to span the 
waters with a huge makeshift in the shape of a 
hollow beam of iron. Each tube of the Britannia 
Bridge is literally a beam, so constructed that it 
combines the maximum of strength with the mini- 
mum of weight ; in other words, it is a beam from 
which every portion of metal that does not add to 
its strength has been carefully removed. 

We will now endeavour to explain the simple 
principle upon which a beam, whether of wood or 
iron, is enabled to support the weight imposed 
upon it. 

For want of a few moments' reflection most 
people, in looking up at a common ceiling-girder, 
consider that its upper and lower parts suffer 
equally in bearing the weight of the roof; but 
these upper and lower strata suffer from causes as 
diametrically opposite to each other as the climates 
of the pole and of the equator. The top of the 
beam throughout its whole length suffers from 
severe compression, the bottom from severe exten- 
sion, and thus, while the particles of the one are 
violently jammed together, the particles of the other 
are on the point of separation ; in short, the differ- 


ence between the two is precisely that which exists 
between the opposite punishments of vertically 
crushing a man to death under a heavy weight, 
and of horizontally tearing him to pieces by horses. 

This theory, confused as it may appear in words, 
can at once be simply and most beautifully illus- 
trated by any small straight stick freshly cut from 
a living shrub. 

In its natural form the bark or rind around the 
stick is equally smooth throughout ; but if the little 
bough, held firmly in each hand, be bent downwards 
so as to form a bow, or in other words to represent 
a beam under heavy pressure, two opposite results 
will instantly appear. The rind in the centre of 
the upper part of this stick will be crumpled up, 
while that on the opposite side will be severely dis- 
tended ; thus denoting, or rather demonstrating, 
what we have stated namely, that beneath the rind 
the wood of the upper part of the stick is severely 
compressed, while that underneath is as violently 
stretched : indeed, if we continue to bend the bow 
until it breaks, the splinters of the upper fracture 
will be seen to intei'lace or cross each other, while 
those beneath will be divorced by a chasm. 

But it is evident, on reflection, that these oppo- 
site results of compression and extension must, as 
they approach each other, respectively diminish in 
degree, xintil in the middle of the beam, termed by 
mathematicians its neutral axis, the two antagonist 
forces, like the celebrated Kilkenny cats, destroy 


each other. It therefore appears that the main 
strength of a beam consists in its power to resist 
compression and extension, and that the middle is 
comparatively useless, so that to obtain the greatest 
amount of strength, the given quantity of material 
to be used should be accumulated at the top and 
bottom, where the strain is greatest ; or, in plain 
terms, the middle of the beam, whether of wood or 
iron, should be bored out. All iron girders, all 
beams in houses in fact all things in domestic or 
naval architecture that bear weight are subject to 
the same law. 

A hollow beam of iron having been fixed upon as 
the form which the projected bridge should take, an 
extensive series of experiments were undertaken with 
a view to ascertain the shape capable of sustaining 
the greatest weight. A rectangular tube, with a 
height considerably greater than its breadth, and 
strengthened at the top and bottom, was eventually 
selected. The genii of the lamp were now set to 
work, and the quiet folk of North Wales witnessed 
similar wonders to those which have since asto- 
nished the Londoners. The principal tubes were 
constructed on piles at high- water mark, and were 
formed of wrought-iron plates riveted together with 
white-hot iron bolts. 

A system of longitudinal tubes or cells gave the 
required strength to the top and bottom of each 
fabric, these cells being quite as effectual as solid 
metal. Every means was taken to make the tubes 


as light as possible, as it was known that the strength 
of the bridge depended on its lightness. This fact 
sounds rather paradoxical ; but if the reader will 
reflect a moment he will find that a bridge has to 
support itself, as well as the things passing over it. 
A beam of solid iron, of the dimensions of the Bri- 
tannia Bridge, would be useless if placed across the 
Straits, as it would infallibly break down under the 
enormous pressure of its own weight. Stephenson's 
beam, as we have already intimated, has all the 
elements of strength, but none of the elements of 
weakness of a common beam. 

While the monster tubes were being constructed, 
the masons were heaping up sandstone and marble 
into the huge piers upon which they were to rest. 
The central pier or tower was built upon a little 
rock in the middle of the stream. This rock, which 
was only exposed at low-water, had long been a 
trouble to sailors and nothing else, but it is now 
world-famous as the Britannia Rock, the chief sup- 
port of Stephenson's magic aerial galleries. Two 
other piers were constructed, one on the Anglesey, 
and the other on the Carnarvon shore, each at a 
distance of 472 feet from the Britannia tower. 

The bridge was to consist of two tubes, placed 
side by side, one for the down and the other for the 
up trains. Each tube was formed in four lengths, 
and when completed these lengths had to be joined 
together, like the pieces of a huge dissected puzzle. 
A huge puzzle, indeed ! When these immense tubes 


were finished, how could they be thrown across the 
Straits a hundred feet above the level of the water ? 
The reader will open his eyes in astonishment when 
we inform him that the four principal tubes, each 
472 feet in length, were floated into the centre of 
the Strait, and then pumped up to their present 
elevated position. Said we not that science had 
brought the powers of nature under man's control 
that the genii of the lamp had become the willing 
slaves of the modern Aladdin ? 

Each tube was supported on pontoons hu^e life- 
buoys if you will and dragged from its resting-place 
by chains connected with a monster windlass sta- 
tioned on the opposite bank. This operation was 
performed at high-tide, and when the water sank, 
the delighted spectators beheld the tube resting in 
its proper position, between its two towers. We 
need scarcely say, that we refer to the direction of 
the tube, but not to its height, when we here speak 
of its proper position. The mass of iron had yet 
to be lifted high into the air. 

Among the genii of the lamp there is one called 
Fluid Pressure, and to this power the task of raising 
the tubes was committed. The hydraulic-press 
gave direction to the mighty efforts of this genie. 
This engine consists essentially of a strong metallic 
cylinder, in which is inserted a solid piston or ram, 
and a pump, by means of which water can be forced 
into the main cylinder. Many of these machines 
were employed in raising the different lengths of 


the bridge ; but one of them deserves particular 
mention on account of its stupendous magnitude. 

The cylinder of this Cyclopean engine was nine 
feet long, twenty-two inches in internal diameter, 
ten inches thick, and weighed fifteen tons. Allowing 
for the waste, twenty-two tons of fluid incandescent 
iron were required for this enormous casting. After 
having been left for seventy-two hours in the mould 
in which it was cast, the mould was detached from 
it. It was still red hot ! It was then left to cool, 
but it was ten days before it was sufficiently cool to 
be approached by operatives well-inured to heat, 
in order to detach from it some of the sand of the 
mould which still adhered to it. 

This vast machine was fixed upon an iron stage, 
near the summit of one of the towers, and to the 
cross-head of the ram were attached massive chains, 
which descended to the level of the water, and em- 
braced the tube to be raised. 

The greatest weight lifted by the press was 1144 
tons, but it was capable of raising 2000 tons. The 
quantity of water injected into the great cylinder, 
in order to raise the ram 6 feet, was 81^ gallons. 
When a lift of six feet was effected, the lifting 
chains were seized by a set of clamps, under the 
lowest point to which the cross-head descended, and 
while they were thus held suspended, the water 
was discharged from the great cylinder, and the ram, 
with its cross-head, made to descend. Meanwhile, 
the lengths of the chain above the clamps were re- 


moved, and the chains thus shortened attached to 
the cross-head by other clamps, and all was prepared 
for another lift. In the practical operation of the 
machine each lift of six feet occupied from thirty 
to forty-five minutes.* 

The towers were formed of three massive piers of 
solid masonry, so that each tube just filled up the 
space between the inner and an outer pier. As the 
tubes were elevated by the action of the press the 
vacant spaces beneath were closely packed with 
blocks of wood. It was very fortunate that this 
course was adopted, as an accident occurred, which 
must have resulted in the destruction of one of the 
tubes had the packing process been omitted. The 
water contained in one of the presses, not content 
with lifting the tube, thought fit to make a display 
of its power by thrusting the bottom out of the 
cylinder, thereby killing an unfortunate workman. 
The monster tube fell one inch, but was prevented 
from falling any further by the packing beneath ; 
had it fallen six feet it would have been shivered 
into atoms. 

When all the tubes were elevated to their perma- 
nent position the great work was completed, and 
Aladdin gazed at the new wonder with delighted 
eyes. These aerial galleries, nearly fifteen hundred 
feet in length, are marvellously strong, each being 
capable of bearing, spread over its whole surface, 
the enormous weight of 4000 tons a weight nine 
* Dr. Lardner. 


times greater than it can ever be required to sustain. 
The hollow beam is not deflected more than an inch 
from the horizontal line by the passage of the 
heaviest luggage-train, and it is scarcely affected at 
all by the highest wind. 

The enchanted engineer, whom we whilom saw 
beset with difficulties of no ordinary kind, can now 
point to the twin tubes across the Menai Straits, 
and say proudly, " My task is performed, the bridge 
has been constructed without scaffolding, and little 
Mona is no longer separated from her mighty 
sister." We need scarcely say that Mr. Stephenson 
is treated quite as badly as the ogre-guarded prin- 
cess, for no sooner has he performed one task than 
the ogre, called " Nineteenth Century," finds him 
another still more impossible to all appearances 
than the last. 

Let us not forget that although the human mind 
may plan a Britannia Bridge or a Great Eastern, the 
human hands could never construct such wonderful 
fabrics without the assistance of those mighty 
powers of the material world which man by indus- 
try and patient observation has succeeded in enslav- 
ing. Steam, heat, light, electricity indeed, every 
agent that is known to exert power in the natural 
world, can be made to labour in the world of art. 
These forces, then, are the genii that attend the 
lamp of science. This lamp, like that of Aladdin, 
must be rubbed before the genii will appear ; in 
plain language, science will not reveal its mighty 
powers unless the student works diligently. 


Our artist has pictured the lamp of science as a 
luminous hand. What is the meaning of this 
curious emblem ? Reflect for a moment, and you 
will detect a deep truth hidden in this fancy. 
Science, dear reader, is the magical hand that points 
out truth and strikes down falsehood ; and, more 
than that, it is the magical hand which fashions the 
crude materials of the world in objects of beauty, 
which constructs and moves all kinds of machinery, 
which performs Herculean feats of strength, and 
executes works of marvellous delicacy. 

But what has Science to do with the wolf and the 
hog at the bottom of the emblem? Nothing, 
indeed, except to keep them out of mischief! The 
wolf stands for the lawless man who preys upon his 
fellow mortals and lives by crime ; the hog for the 
ignorant glutton who wallows in the mire of indo- 
lence, devouring everything that comes in his way. 
We trust that these brutes in human form will one 
day become extinct, and that the chains which 
depend from our wonderful lamp will be no longer 
needed ; at present, however, it is absolutely neces- 
sary to restrain the wolf from interfering with those 
who labour in the light of science, and the hog from 
devouring their well-earned food. 

Having thus "pointed a moral" in the emblem 
that " adorns our concluding tale," we have now to 
bid the reader farewell. 

Aii unpleasant task is this leave-taking, dear 
reader. We have journeyed together for some tune, 


and now we feel as though we were parting from 
an old friend. We have treated you very rudely, 
we fear. We have dragged you hither and thither 
without once asking you whether you liked such 
wandering habits. We have led you through the 
ancient forests ; have soared with you to the con- 
fines of space ; have plunged with you into the sea ; 
and, in fine, have taken you everywhere. We 
trust that you bear us no malice, and will not think 
that time wasted which was spent in listening to 





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1 < . .. p ar f TT 



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00 047 885